How Volunteering with the Red Cross Helped Me Improve My English and Develop My Career
Written by: Rosalind SE Carney, Volunteer
Karin Markle moved to the US from Bremerhaven, Germany in the early 1990s. Soon after her arrival, she started volunteering with the Red Cross at the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in Virginia. In the Mother-Baby Unit, she helped mothers bathe their newborns, change diapers, make formula, and helped provide discharge instructions. Karin also volunteered in the Family Practice unit, dealing with paperwork. Karin was not confident with her level of English, but she was surrounded by kind and supportive colleagues who never made her feel self-conscious. She never felt like she was a volunteer; she felt part of the team.
During her time at the Family Practice Unit, Karin was able to leave her child in the daycare unit at Fort Belvoir. Unfortunately, once this benefit was eliminated, Karin was worried that she could not continue her volunteer work with the Red Cross. Fortunately, one of the doctors valued Karin’s work so much that he organized daycare for her daughter so that she could continue in the role. Karin was thrilled that he had so much trust in her.
Karin recalls working late one evening to complete an assignment another doctor in the unit had assigned her. She stayed several extra hours into the night to finish the assignment she was given. This effort and rapid turn-around of the assignment did not go unnoticed by the doctor, who thanked her for staying late. Karin knew that although she did not receive financial compensation for her work, she was truly valued. In fact, Karin was recognized as a Red Cross Volunteer of the Month in 1996.
Throughout her interactions with these colleagues, Karin gained more self-esteem and confidence in her English-speaking abilities and also learned medical terminology. Karin stopped volunteering when she started training as a Medical Administrative Assistant. Some of her colleagues celebrated her graduation with her; even recalling that time brings tears to her eyes. Karin currently works as an EMT in a hospital.
She recently starting re-connecting with the Red Cross and hopes to volunteer again soon.
When asked what message she has for someone considering volunteering with the Red Cross, Karin says, “I don’t think my words are powerful enough to express this message. But, if you are looking to do great work with great people, go to the Red Cross. The Red Cross gives you experience, and they really help you. You are not only helping individual people, but your local community as a whole."
It reminded Karin of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.”
Karin remembers her time with the Red Cross as the best experience, she went to sleep at night knowing she had done a good job, and that was a wonderful feeling.
The Red Cross currently has over 100 volunteer openings in the National Captital Region, covering all aspects of Red Cross services. Learn more about Red Cross Volunteer opportunities here: https://www.redcross.org/local/washington-dc/volunteer.html.