By Lori Souza, Red Cross communications volunteer
In the most extraordinary circumstances, we find the most ordinary people willing to help others. Farshad Fallah was one such volunteer who found himself in a position to help others as a volunteer for the Red Cross. As a Finance guy by day, he was not moved by the work he was doing, and in August 2023, he signed up as a volunteer for the Red Cross. He did not expect to go from applicant to volunteer so quickly, but he was ready for whatever was next. By the end of the month, Farshad’s life would change drastically, and he would embark on an adventure he never expected.
While attending his Emergency Medical Training (EMT) Class, Farshad received an email from the Red Cross about a one-day cram session. The regional Disaster Cycle Services (DCS) team offered a Disaster Responder “Cram Session” to prepare members to immediately deploy to disasters nationwide. Farshad did not hesitate and immediately signed up for the course.
Farshad and other volunteers attended the cram session at the Silicon Valley Chapter office in San Jose. The session involved a combination of theoretical knowledge and hands-on practical skills and was designed to equip individuals with the skills and knowledge necessary for responding to and managing the aftermath of disasters. From the introduction to the last lesson, Farshad was intrigued, and felt he was adequately prepared to assist as a volunteer but thought he would remain local. Little did he know he’d be on a plane to help disaster victims within a matter of weeks.
On a cool day in September, Farshad was at home playing his guitar when he received a text from the Red Cross seeking volunteers to deploy to Hawaii. He knew that the wildfires had hit Hawaii hard, but he did not expect the call to come for him so soon. Unaware of his exact role, he was on a plane the next day. He walked away from this moment thinking, “I have never been to Maui. God realized he wanted to save it for me.” Farshad would not be disappointed by his abrupt decision to leave to help those affected by the wildfires.
Upon arriving in Hawaii, he and other volunteers were immediately put to work. What had seemed like chaos in televised news reports was incredibly organized in person. He was unsure of his duties as a Red Cross volunteer, but he was up for anything. His first assignment would be working at a computer, assisting victims displaced by the fires. Farshad would obtain their information and help by placing victims in a hotel for temporary shelter. While this was admirable work, his next assignment would change his life.
A couple weeks into his deployment, Farshad was sent to work alongside other organizations, including FEMA and the Salvation Army, at the Lahaina Civic Center. He was working directly with clients in need, and this is where he had the most powerful impact. “When you bring in a client that has lost everything, they have certain needs. Once I help them find shelter and food, they get transferred to a long-term Red Cross worker. I like being the first initial contact.” He described this as a very humbling experience.
He did not expect to have a Red Cross adventure so soon after he completed that volunteer application in August but is grateful he took advantage of the opportunity. Farshad highly recommends taking the cram session and the tasks as they come to anyone who wants to make a difference with the Red Cross. He will continue his work as a volunteer and hopes to have more opportunities in the future that allow him to travel and help others in need of disaster assistance.
To learn how you too can deploy as a trained Red Cross volunteer, visit: redcross.org/volunteer.