The American Red Cross is committed to providing humanitarian services and embodying inclusive practices – a value that is even more significant in the context of Hispanic Heritage Month (which is celebrated from September 15 to October 15 in America). This month honors Hispanic Americans’ contributions and celebrates Latino joy and culture. We had the privilege to sit down and discuss with Loida Rodriguez, the Community Engagement and Partnerships Disaster Program Manager at the Indiana chapter of the Red Cross, about her trajectory, the influence her work has left behind, and the crossroads of her humanitarian work and Hispanic heritage.
The Road to Making a Positive Mark on the World
Loida crossed paths with the Red Cross in March 2019. Before joining the team, she dealt with the all-too-familiar struggle of finding a suitable career after graduating from college.
“I got stuck and I didn’t understand why I’d go to the cover letter section on job applications and feel like I wasn’t being my honest self. I just kept thinking, ‘What else can I do?’” Loida shared during the interview.
Ultimately, it was her experiences with volunteering and her desire to make positive change that motivated her to explore the Red Cross’ opportunities. As she learned more about its mission and how 90% of its workforce is composed of volunteers, Loida realized that she could make a living by combining her professional interests (joining the workforce) with her personal interests (positively impacting communities).
“I just kept thinking to myself, if I can be of service, if I could be growing my professional self as a staff member with the Red Cross, why not do it?” she recounted.
Having discovered the answer to her search for purpose, Loida applied to work for the Red Cross and kickstarted her career path.
Community Outreach and Collaboration
Loida initially joined the Red Cross as a Volunteer Recruitment Specialist and was promoted to her current role: Community Engagement and Partnerships Disaster Program Manager (CEP DPM). Specifically, this position focuses on making the Red Cross service lines more equitable and deals with working with historically marginalized communities. On a day-to-day basis, Loida educates local leaders about the Red Cross services so that they may pass that knowledge on to their constituents.
“How do we strategically work with our partners and focus specifically on communities so that we can say, ‘Where are the gaps and how can we provide our services and be better at providing them?’” she shared one of the new goals for her position.
Her identity as a first-generation Salvadoran American makes her job more meaningful. Loida is fluent in Spanish and as such, is in a good position to bridge connections between the Red Cross and the Hispanic community.
“I’m thankful that I can be that sort of connector, that liaison,” she shared.
Ultimately, Loida’s mediator role inspires her to lead people for the better, starting with her team of volunteers. She aspires to empower her team to not only meet the Hispanic community’s needs but to also uplift other vulnerable communities.
Conchas y Conversaciones: Raising Awareness About the Red Cross
One of Loida’s projects that she is most proud of is “Conchas y Conversaciones,” an initiative with Latin businesses. This venture involves parking a Red Cross vehicle outside of a Latin business, giving locals free conchas (sweet Mexican bread), and passing out flyers teaching them about fire or tornado safety.
“The more that people learn, the more that they want to be involved, which is beautiful and goes to show that knowledge is power,” she explained.
The success of this initiative spurred the development of these community outreach partnerships, going so far as to collaborate with the Mexican Consulate. Thanks to this union, Loida’s team has the privilege of conducting monthly “Be Red Cross Ready” sessions at the Consulate. While Mexican nationals are waiting for consular services, the team presents about tornado or home fire safety so that they may pass it on to their communities.
“Now, we’re looking at virtual presentations to leverage the platform of the Mexican Consulate and do information sessions that talk about this,” she disclosed.
Embracing Hispanic Culture
To Loida, celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month grants the opportunity to take pride in the culture, regardless of whether one is a first-generation or third-generation Hispanic-American.
“It’s in your blood and you can celebrate it and teach other people about it,” she emphasized.
Our discussion with Loida reveals the unique intersection of community, identity, and service – a trait even more significant ahead of Hispanic Heritage Month. Her extraordinary journey with the Red Cross extends beyond its lines of service and into empathy within minority communities.
If you are inspired by Loida to serve others and produce effects that resonate with the communities we serve, visit redcross.org/volunteer.
Written by Katriel Lin, Communications Intern.