The Palmetto SC Region made 36 national volunteer deployments this year to assist with disaster relief from tornadoes in Oklahoma, wild fires in Colorado and Arizona and floods in Texas, Illinois, New York and Colorado. These deployed volunteers gained hands on experience that will prove valuable in a large-scale disaster in our region.
Several volunteers were deployed more than once this year including Robin McRae who was deployed to Colorado Springs to provide disaster mental health during the devastating Black Forest Fire and then to Denver, Colorado during the flooding that displaced thousands from their homes. Locally, she responds often with Red Cross to home fires. Like other deployed volunteers, McRae admits the hours are long and difficult but the reward of helping others in need makes it all worth it. Here are her deployment reflections.
Disaster Mental Health Volunteer Reflects On Deployment
By Robin McRae
Imagine driving into a community with over 500 burned out homes in hundreds of acres of charred forest. That’s what met my eyes each time I drove into the Black Forest neighborhood to provide Red Cross disaster mental health services to people who arrived home to go through the ashes of their dwellings.
I worked with out-reach teams made up of other Red Cross mental health volunteers, caseworkers and medical workers. As a Red Cross disaster mental health volunteer, I listened to numerous emotional stories of emergency evacuations. Providing emotional support and comfort was a large part of this volunteer work in Colorado. It was important for survivors to understand the range of emotions that goes with a disaster and to encourage positive self-care and steps to recovery. Relief comes as survivors realize that their emotions are normal and understandable. In order to help mitigate Post Traumatic Stress, I helped educate survivors in the indictors of this syndrome and told them where to seek additional assistance within their community.
My constant hope is that each contact I make as a Red Cross volunteer will help to relieve suffering and provide comfort. Relief and appreciation are the most common responses to the provision of Red Cross disaster mental health services, not only in the Black Forest response but in other disaster responses as well.
Are deployments hard work? Yes, it is mentally, emotionally and physically demanding. Are deployments rewarding? Yes, it is rewarding beyond description.