AmeriCorps Story of Service: Hanna Lingenfelter

Lingenfelter_1As an undergraduate student, I studied Archaeology and Anthropology.

Understanding and fleshing out the definition of culture is central to these fields of study.

My understanding of culture and all that encompasses this sole word was pushed further in my graduate program as an Intercultural Studies student. Today, I believe that cultural competency is critical when serving in my role as the AmeriCorps Community Preparedness Coordinator for the American Red Cross South Puget Sound Chapter in Tacoma, Washington.

lingenfelter_2.jpgAs a Preparedness Coordinator, much of my time is spent speaking and interacting with people of various cultures. Therefore, I do not think that I could serve as effectively as I would like without my background. At the same time, I recognize that cultural competency is an ongoing process which requires me to remain a life-long learner. This, coupled with an enthusiastic approach to engaging people of many cultures and a willingness to continually adapt how I share information, have become important aspects of my term of service.

In my position, I disseminate disaster preparedness information via public speaking. Public speaking does not come naturally to me and is another skill that I continue to foster through this program. I have learned, both through prior experience and through serving as a Preparedness Coordinator, that to have full confidence when delivering a presentation, I must have prior knowledge about my audience. This includes knowing my audience’s cultural background. I cannot hope to reach an audience effectively with the valuable information I may be sharing if they are distracted by my non-verbal communication, or vice versa. It is essential that I understand the cultural nuances of the population I am serving prior to engaging with them.

So far in my term, I have been able to better serve many people of Washington state, some of whom are refugees and immigrants from China, Iraq, Haiti, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South Korea and Syria. I am thankful for the opportunity to develop relationships with people from all over the globe. Someday, I hope that creating and building these relationships comes in the form of working in International Services.  However, until then, I will continue to grow in my cultural competency and public speaking skills and value the experience that serving for the American Red Cross through Washington Service Corps has granted me.

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