Volunteers with the Red Cross in Northern California have been helping wildfire survivors from the Caldor and Dixie fires 24/7 this summer. Northern California’s Red Cross has roughly 15 disaster mental health volunteers, but they need more. They’ve been putting in 12-hour days to assist other volunteers with the emotional difficulties that come with assisting families who have lost everything. Judy Nicholson and Phylis Anderson worked in the mental health field.
A disaster relief operation, according to Anderson, has a “sort of flow.” You’re gung-ho at first and eager to get out there. Then things get difficult. All of the tragic stories that volunteers hear may make them feel useless. Nicholson said, “If we don’t take care of our team, what kind of humanitarian organization are we? Everbody has stepped out of their own comfort zone and we want them to be acknowledged, safe, healthy and to have known that they mattered.” Volunteers say it’s rewarding to help others, but they can’t grow too attached to their clients. Other volunteers, on the other hand, have formed lifetime friendships with them.