By Amy McCray
Trygve Anderson’s first interaction with the Red Cross was when he was stationed in the central highlands of Vietnam in 1969. He had just gone to sleep after coming back from an overnight perimeter patrol, and somebody came and woke him up. He had a message from the Red Cross informing him that his first child was born. “And then I went back to bed,” Anderson says.
In 2001, after he retired from teaching for thirty years in the Everett school system, Anderson decided to volunteer for the American Red Cross serving Snohomish County, and went to the introductory class. He says “everything was in disarray. I asked ‘what is going on’? The instructor said, ‘don’t you know?’”
It was September 11, 2001 and the chapter was organizing and training volunteers to deploy. The instructor asked if he would be willing to teach the class. “I said yes, when is the first course? She said in twenty-five minutes. Twenty-five minutes later, I taught the class. I taught twelve hours a day for the next three weeks.”
“This was a high point of my years with the Red Cross. I would come home at night so charged up that it took me an hour to go to sleep. My adrenaline was pumping, I loved it,” Anderson says. “I saw the world differently as a result—seeing it from the other end.”
From 2002-2009, he volunteered as the logistics lead, working as a supervisor for over ten natural disasters, including Hurricane Katrina. He says, “I like doing logistics and disasters because I like the action and the activity, and going around seeing things—it’s physical, and I like carrying heavy things. Logistics is so much action and so much variety, I love it… I wouldn’t last half a day sitting at a desk.”
In May 2014 Anderson became the Instructor Coordinator for Disaster Cycle Services in Snohomish County, working with instructors to run training courses for volunteers. He says, “After being a teacher for a living, that’s who I am. I can’t stop being a teacher.”
He works with the Red Cross learning management system called EDGE, which serves as a database and allows him to track what courses volunteers have taken. It provides a resource for scheduling classes, and monitoring and coaching the instructors. Anderson would like to give a shout-out to Jon Todd, Volunteer Onboarding and Volunteer Connection Lead for Snohomish County, who plays a vital role in the process. “I depend on him; he magically makes things happen there that need to get done. If you mention him, I would be delighted!”
Anderson talked about designing the curriculum for the Shelter Fundamentals class and the Shelter Simulation class. To prepare volunteers to realistically face situations when deployed on assignments, he has actors come and assume roles as clients seeking aid. These characters have included a man who only speaks Chinese, a woman who is deaf, a transgender individual looking for the restroom, clients with service animals, clients with pets, and a client who is quite intoxicated.
These situations require the volunteers to fine tune their problem-solving skills. There are four to five instructors monitoring the class to help them work through the situations. The participants can ask for a time-out so that they can stop the simulation and talk about how they should address the case. The actors then resume their roles. Anderson says the goal here is to “prepare you for when you’re on your own, and don’t have the coach available.” He says “everybody from other chapters is welcome to come and take our classes!”
He describes himself as an “Everett homeboy”. “I don’t deploy anymore. I’m the guy who stays behind during disasters, looks after our county in case something bad happens here while everybody is out, and I train the people to be sent out. Indirectly, I’m helping the clients out there by having the most highly skilled volunteers possible to send out. We send out the best we have.”
While Anderson does not deploy, he does travel around the world, and has left the North American continent eight times. On these trips he has visited Red Cross offices across the globe, including Norway, Croatia, Bulgaria, Greece, Vanuatu, and Japan. Learning about the operations of these chapters and the impact that they have in their community has inspired Anderson. While he was in Greece, he asked if he could join the Red Cross chapter there—they said no, but only because he doesn’t speak Greek!
You should become a volunteer too! Join Trygve. Register at: RedCross.org