|Sumaiyia Chowdhury and John McPartland|
Earlier this spring, Sumaiyia Chowdhury, a junior majoring in biology at St. John’s University in Queens, began training to become an American Red Cross disaster responder. Her introduction to disaster response was to “ride along” to a house fire.
A ride-along, or a trip into the field with a seasoned responder, is a great opportunity, especially for new volunteers like Chowdhury, to get a taste of the work of the Red Cross.
Chowdhury started volunteering in high school with Key Club International, raising money for UNICEF. At St. John’s, her passion for giving back to the community strengthened when she became involved with Habitat for Humanity during her sophomore year, helping build new houses for those in need.
Chowdhury’s involvement with St. John’s Habitat for Humanity Club piqued her interest in joining the Red Cross and starting a Red Cross Club at St. John’s. “I want to make sure I make good use of my time,” Chowdhury said. “Ever since I started volunteering regularly, my life has changed so much that now, if I don’t volunteer, I feel weird.”
Before heading into the field on her ride-along, Chowdhury’s Red Cross mentor, John McPartland, acquainted her with a responder’s basic responsibilities. For example, Chowdhury learned that responders make sure their Red Cross van is stocked with food, drinks, comfort kits and other basic necessities before leaving for a disaster scene.
She learned from McPartland that the key is to be warm, welcoming and compassionate to those affected by disaster.
When describing her experience in the field, Chowdhury had only positive comments. “I feel honored to contribute to the Red Cross. It’s interesting to meet different people and know how to react to different situations,” Chowdhury said.
Chowdhury added that although St. John’s has many community service clubs, none covers disaster relief, and a Red Cross club on campus would be unique. With a strong community service atmosphere on campus, Chowdhury believes the club can be a huge success.
Over this summer, Chowdhury will continue her Red Cross training. She says this will help her better prepare to start a Red Cross Club at St. John’s in the fall.
“What the Red Cross does is just amazing,” Chowdhury said. “They help so many people around the world. I’m excited to be more involved this summer and next fall.”