By Ashley Henyan
Around 300,000 volunteers support Red Cross lifesaving programs and services across the U.S. During National Volunteer Week 2022 we want to recognize their selfless efforts as the heartbeat of our lifesaving Red Cross work. Volunteers who support Red Cross activities often give years and even decades of service—responding to provide financial resources and emotional support after home fire-related emergencies, teaching skills that save lives and transporting lifesaving blood to hospital patients in need. Others, like Virginia-based Blood Donor Ambassador, Sohaila Shinwari, are just getting started.
A college junior, Sohaila joined the Red Cross as a volunteer in January 2022. She gives her time regularly at the Red Cross fixed blood donation center in Fairfax, VA, checking donors in for appointments and ensuring, post donation, those who have given blood receive a well-deserved snack.
“Volunteering with the Red Cross is a way to give back to the community and show my gratitude to those who donate,” Sohaila said. “I appreciate the people who give blood. They are giving up their time to save a stranger’s life!”
In addition to her pre-med studies at George Mason University, Sohaila is employed at INOVA, a healthcare facility in Northern Virginia. There, she works as a nurse technician and she sees the need for donated blood nearly every shift.
“I've worked with patients with sickle cell anemia and cancer patients,” Sohaila continued. “I would see the need for blood daily. That’s why it is even more special to volunteer at blood drives and see donors rolling up their sleeves. I’ve met the hospital patients that gift of life helps.”
Beyond helping out at blood drives, the need for disaster response volunteers has never been greater at the Red Cross, especially as we experience larger and more intense weather-related emergencies across the country. The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season was the third most active in history, with 21 named storms causing more than $80 billion in damages. Also in 2021, the U.S. experienced another devastating wildfire season - with over 940 large wildfires destroying thousands of homes and causing $90 billion in damages. Red Cross disaster volunteers are currently needed to help prepare for the next large-scale emergency.
And while big hurricanes and wildfires get more visibility in the media, smaller disasters - like home fires - are no less devastating to the families affected. That’s why the Red Cross is currently recruiting Disaster Action Team volunteers to help comfort and support families in local communities after tragic home fire-related emergencies.
Just as disasters happen every day, the need for blood is constant. In fact, every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. Right now, we are currently recruiting blood donor ambassadors to join Sohaila and help check blood donors into their appointments, answer questions and give out post donation snacks. Blood transportation volunteers who support hospital patients by delivering blood to and from Red Cross facilities and local hospitals are also in high demand.
On why others should volunteer, Sohaila added, “It’s fun and you will be helping people. And if you can donate blood, please do that too!”
Around 90% of all Red Cross work is performed by trained and dedicated volunteers. To join our team of service-minded workers please visit RedCross.org/volunteer.