Red Crossed 

Information is spotty at best. I’d like to say that this is because there are so many people who want to help, but I’m not sure that’s the actual problem.

After spending half of today chasing down the organization that the world relies on to be prepared and keep people safe, I now understand that the helpers themselves are in desperate need of administrative rescue from the local to national level.

Between getting someone to pick up the forever ringing phone lines, negotiating a semi-disorganized website, being referred to separate chapters, given the wrong numbers and speaking to people who “just don’t have that information”… I think most people would have given up thinking, “They don’t want me. They don’t need me.”

I know I did.

After the tsunami hit, I called a local Red Cross chapter to see about disaster training for deployment and, despite the fact that I meet the age requirement, was basically told “no” over the phone. To clarify, they did that thing where they made the task sound impossible. They were vague about the facts, courses and paperwork, they cancelled our appointment and didn’t reschedule and they didn’t return my calls. I do enough chasing in my job as an actor and writer, and I wasn’t going to spend weeks chasing down the Red Cross so that I could force them to allow me to volunteer somewhere dangerous.

They don’t want me. They don’t need me.

Maybe they’re right: What could I do?

That’s bollocks. I know I can do stuff. I planned to readdress training at another time.

Now is another time. The Red Cross is in desperate need of disaster volunteers and are, accordingly, “speed disaster training.” This training solely addresses what knowledge is needed in order to volunteer in the Katrina situation. Individuals won’t learn the terrorism and other disaster stuff, but one could always plan to do that after finding a chapter that doesn’t make people fight them to get the information.

I mean, sure, Sean Penn is allowed to roll in with his posse when everyone else is forced to stay in or out of the city, depending on which brilliant stage of rescue FEMA is orchestrating at that time, but what about everyone else? I especially speak of the people with sweet skills and knowledge who aren’t allowed in simply because they must first chase down the paperwork and rules. When I am stranded on my roof one day, I will be glad to see Sean Penn in his boat or anyone else who has an inkling of how to get to me.

It will never cease to disappoint me, how difficult humans make the simplest things…

We live in a time when even helping requires one to negotiate a ridiculous process.

But, then again, the training classes at Red Cross HQ are full; so they can’t let anyone else register, it has been standing room only, people aren’t flaking, you can’t even try to wait on stand-by the day of...

Hope does spring eternal when people are permitted to flex their humanity.

Still, I wish that I could believe the problems are due to volunteer overload.

After much work and calls and e-mails and pushing, It was revealed to me that the Red Cross is offering disaster training at a new location starting tomorrow morning.

E-mail me if you want the information.

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