This past Saturday, October 5, was my 12-year anniversary with the American Red Cross. How did this happen? Where did the time go?
When I tried to write about it, words failed. Or, rather, words poured out of my pen in an endless, meandering stream: lots of words, not much sense.
So I got ambitious and turned the past twelve years into a simple infographic. (Click on the graphic to get a better view.) There are the long-term projects that lasted weeks, months or years, and the one-off emergency responses that lasted only a few days–often just one day.
Last month I attended Social Media Week New York. As most of my career has been spent in non-profits, I registered for panels on non-profits, international development, and using social media for social good. There was a good deal of discussion about events happening in the Middle East, and opinions were divided on how much (or how little) social media like Facebook and Twitter were influencing the democracy movements.
Friday around noon I returned from an early lunch break for a panel discussion. Every venue (that I know of) had wi-fi, so after finding a good seat I cracked open my laptop to check e-mail and Twitter. Twitter was alive! Reports that Hosni Mubarak had resigned were lighting up my timeline, so I switched briefly to my News list, which was also crazy. But this is a new medium, and the contradictory reports of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting in January had shown me that misinformation can propagate just as easily as reliable information. So I quickly looked at the websites of the New York Times, the BBC, and Al Jazeera English. All of them reported Mubarak’s resignation, so I accepted it as true.
Many bloggers have been posting information on donating to the relief efforts in Japan following the earthquakes and tsunami on March 11. It’s good information and I’ll share a few links, but first I want to warn you: not all charitable organizations are equal, and not all are equally good at everything. In the aftermath of a major disaster, well-meaning people may try to organize a relief effort that is simply beyond their ability. Worse, there are scammers who will take advantage of your good intentions. I’m all for doing whatever we can to help people affected by a disaster, but donate your money or your volunteer efforts wisely.
Unanswered questions are scary. That’s what I scrawled in my blog notebook back in October after I gave a Ready New York presentation in Brooklyn, not far from where a tornado had touched down a few days earlier. Tornadoes are rare in this part of the country, but every couple of years we have a small one. Or, in this case, two—one in Brooklyn and another in Queens.
Someone at the presentation had said she knew emergency preparedness is important, but thinking about possible emergencies scared her. I can’t help but agree. Sometimes watching the news is scary, but I believe that the only way to take the fear out of “What if?” is to answer it-and then do whatever is necessary to be ready if “What if?” happens.