The Indiana Region of the American Red Cross would not be able to do what it does for the community without our wonderful volunteers. On the first Tuesday of February, we launched a new initiative in 2022. Every Tuesday, we will shine the light on a wonderful volunteer. On this Thankful Tuesday, we are so grateful for volunteer, James Christy Wareham, who currently is serving as a Disaster Action Team (DAT) volunteer. We asked him a few questions to help you get to know him and why we value him so much.
When did you become a volunteer with the Red Cross?
I began serving with the Red Cross in August, 2021.
Why did you become a Red Crosser?
As I read news about the August 14, 2021 earthquake in Haiti, I realized the conditions of living with the pandemic had changed enough that I was again ready to find ways to offer important volunteer assistance to people and communities, as I’d done over a recent stint with the Peace Corps (2016-2018, country of Georgia), a transforming experience in my retirement years. Since it was soon evident I’d need more time and experience to serve in Haiti or any other country, a quick review of the American Red Cross website opened up countless opportunities here at home. I found myself especially drawn to work supporting people in the wake of disasters and undertook training for both individual and mass disaster response (single house fires, earthquakes, etc).
More personally, my home was crushed once when tornadoes touched down in our Indiana community years ago. It was a hard time. We then had enough material and community resources of our own to make it through, but so many of our neighbors would have been left destitute without support from organizations like the American Red Cross. I came to feel a deeper need to be of use to people — to give of myself, my time and my resources, when I can.
What is your favorite aspect of volunteering?
The expectation of hope. When I meet a family who have watched their home go up in flames, their faces lined with shock, fear, sorrow, and despair. I’ve learned to expect that with a warm and concerned human presence, the future can start to look possible again. Even before the conversation that soon leads to offering concrete assistance, the family encounters their community showing up in flesh and blood, including this suddenly appearing stranger with no tie to them except that we’re in this world together and must rely on each other.
The moment people start to realize that even the most enormous material loss can be borne, when others show up to share it with them, may be the most important for me. After some conversation and information gathering, immediate financial assistance often follows. That does serve to confirm the hope that has barely begun to surface in a family’s heart. But it seems to me it’s the presence of the responder as the face of the Red Cross — our generous donors, the unseen staff, the volunteers in every community — that has made the impact of assistance truly meaningful and the hope in recovery sustaining.
How has your experience impacted you and others?
I regularly come away from this work with gratitude and a sense of fulfillment. It’s an effort and at times emotionally demanding. I do now and then reach for inner resources of strength resilience, and Red Cross, for its part, always sends specialized volunteers at the ready for occasions when a volunteer might seek a bit of support in a difficult moment. What mainly comes up for me, though, is a humbling sort of gladness to know I’m part of a globally shared life that, for all its struggles, is full of good will and a commitment to stand by one another, whatever the day may bring. I’m thankful to be part of all that in a way that makes every day matter to myself and others.
Are you interested in helping your community during a disaster? If you answered yes, we need you! Click here to learn more about how to become a Disaster Action Team volunteer and to apply today.