"You must never so much think as whether you like it or not, whether it is bearable or not; you must never think of anything except the need, and how to meet it." - Clara Barton
Ever since the American Red Cross came into existence at the end of the 19th century, the role of women in disaster management has seen a transformative change. From being a mere number in the count of victims after a disaster, to serving as emergency responders, women today are a driving force in building disaster resilience for communities across the globe.
Jennifer Carkner is one such exemplary woman who has been a part of American Red Cross Disaster Response for almost two decades. Jenny now wears the "hat" of Regional Disaster Officer for the American Red Cross Northwest Region, where she takes the lead wherever a disaster strikes – be it wildfires, floods, storms, or home fires.
She leads a team of 15 staff members spread throughout Washington State and northern Idaho – more than half of whom are also women – who oversee almost 1000 volunteers regionwide.
“We were founded by a woman who recognized a need in her community and did everything she could to meet that need. As the needs changed, so did her strategies. Clara Barton is a role model for me, and I am proud to carry on the work that she began so long ago,” says Jenny.
Disaster Cycle Services supervisor Amanda Appel is another example of a team member called into service by a powerful female figure. Her inspiration to work in disaster relief, she says, came from her mother “who spent her career as an Emergency Room nurse alleviating human suffering.” Sounds a lot like the mission of the American Red Cross.
Amanda uses her skills as a planner and analyst to support data-driven decision making before, during and after a disaster. She ensures that we deliver the mission to those who need it, where they need it and when they need it.
Disaster Training Lead Melodie Witherspoon echoes similar thoughts, as she feels immense pride to work in an organization that embraces the knowledge and capability of women. “It is refreshing to see how several top management positions in Disaster Relief Operations are filled by talented women,” she says.
When advising women who are trying to advance in their careers, Jenny tells them to trust their instincts. “Learn a lesson from every experience you have – embrace it all and become a lifelong learner.”
As founder of the American Red Cross in 1881, Clara Barton is considered a visionary whose humanitarian spirit helped change the world. To this day, Clara’s legacy lives on – reflected in the spirit of Red Cross volunteers and employees in the Northwest Region and beyond.
Because of one woman, Clara Barton, the American Red Cross brings help and hope across the nation and around the world.
And because of many women serving with the Red Cross in the Northwest Region, Clara’s vision lives on in our communities and for our neighbors in need.
To all volunteers in the Northwest Region, thank you for allowing us to celebrate this chapter of our history. We know the strength of the Red Cross is a direct reflection of the contributions of all its members. You make it possible for Clara’s vision to live on.