By Noreen Walton, American Red Cross volunteer
Noted actress Cicely Tyson once wrote, “Challenges make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew.” That is definitely true of Melody Chan, April 2021 Volunteer of the Month.
When Melody joined Orange County’s Red Cross Club in Summer 2019, taking on a leadership role was not part of her plan. New to the organization, and quiet by nature, Melody envisioned joining the existing team, working side-by-side with other students. “I was not a natural leader, but that has changed because of the Red Cross,” she explains.
With the arrival of COVID-19 in early 2020, the Red Cross Club’s Service Saturdays suddenly moved from in-person to online events. Asked to take on leadership of the Special Events Committee, Melody set about designing and implementing several virtual events, including the MLK Day of Service Missing MAPathon. This virtual event brought together staff and volunteers of all ages from across the region to research and add geographic data to the system that directs first responders to emergency calls.
Melody’s leadership skills were “put to the test” when she agreed to host an online conversation with her Red Cross Club peers. “The topic was Diversity and Inclusion. As the discussion leader, I needed to design activities that would help everyone feel comfortable. I began with an activity called ‘I Share My Story.’”
Understanding that these are not easy conversations to have, especially in a digital environment, Melody decided she would be the first person to share her story with the group. “Both of my parents are immigrants from Hong Kong. I described the challenges I have experienced, my struggles, growing up, as I tried to fit into both cultures.”
Melody’s story resonated with the other volunteers. Soon the meeting was filled with questions and responses, and participants “bouncing ideas off each other.” Melody recalls the satisfaction she felt as the meeting progressed. “People’s cultures are a big part of who they are. I learned that a lot of people have faced discrimination. I also learned that our unique characteristics created a sense of unity in the group.”
This sense of unity inspires Melody to keep looking for new leadership opportunities. “I think it’s great that the Red Cross focuses on diversity and inclusion,” says Melody. “That focus makes volunteers feel welcome and it makes all of us in the Red Cross stronger as a community. The Red Cross has definitely strengthened me and supported my becoming a leader. The Red Cross motivates me to do more.”
To learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer.