By Kathy Hartman, American Red Cross Volunteer
Sometimes we stumble upon an unknown passion in an unexpected way. For Harriet Bakken, it just so happened that she found a passion for serving the Red Cross while at soccer practice.
The inspiration to get involved started in 2016, when one of her soccer teammates told Harriet about her experience working on the Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) to help with the Red Cross Hurricane Sandy relief effort in New York City. Harriet thought it sounded both fulfilling and a great way to help, so she became a DAT volunteer at home in King County, working alongside her friend from soccer.
But, this was far from Harriet’s first encounter with the Red Cross. Harriet has financially given back to the Red Cross for more than 20 years, and when she found out about all the organization does internationally, she started designating part of her donation to the International Services of the Red Cross. International Services provides relief globally by reconnecting families separated by crises, helping to rebuild communities devastated by disasters and working alongside health organizations to eliminate global disease.
“I was so impressed to find out the variety of ways the Red Cross helps the global community and how vital that work is,” she says. “I was concerned that International Services sometimes gets overlooked because people usually donate locally.”
She emphasizes how much the Red Cross partners with other organizations to provide infrastructure they otherwise might not have. For example, International Services works on vaccination campaigns with the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization.
While a portion of her financial donations are directed overseas, her volunteer impact is here at home.
Harriet really enjoys working with her Red Cross team in Seattle, which she describes as upbeat and always ready to take on tasks. She says, “It’s really fun to be part of something, and when work is hard, it’s nice to have the camaraderie and people you can share with. I feel like I need to step up not only for our clients, but for my team. There’s a sense of responsibility with that.”
One time her team responded to a large apartment fire, where she met a man who was displaced by the fire. It turns out he previously lived in, and drove for the Red Cross in Afghanistan. “Here he was, having worked with the Red Cross half a world away, helping his neighbors and community. Now he was in Seattle needing Red Cross assistance,” Harriet said. “It was really touching. People are so appreciative that they’re getting help at a critical time, and they look forward to the time when they can pay it back.”
Harriet says she finds the experience of helping others humbling. “These people have just been through a terrible event, and their future is unknown. They’ve been displaced, and they don’t always know what to do next. Despite that, they’re grateful to us, they’re kind, and they seem so resilient. It’s inspirational,” she says.
Because she’s witnessed personally the help and hope that the Red Cross delivers, Harriet wants to encourage others to volunteer with and donate to the Red Cross. “There are so many ways people can volunteer — a little or a lot, at an event, or doing office help, or as a greeter. You meet a wonderful group of volunteers, and it’s very rewarding. And by giving to the Red Cross, you’re helping us be ready for the next disaster.”
She also wants to people to consider donating internationally. “Don’t forget International Services in your donations because that work is really important, like their work with Ukrainian refugees in Poland.”
Learn more about Red Cross International Services by watching the video below, and tap here to find how the American Red Cross has brought relief and hope around the world to those who need it most.