Sound the Alarm: Save a Life

Editor's note: The following comes from Johna Wright, who serves as a board member of the Community Service Division. One of our goals as a division is to provide tips and resources for people who want to participate in a variety of service projects in order to help them understand the tasks that they might be asked to perform. However, as the following entry demonstrates, service is often unpredictable, and this is not a bad thing.

As a Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services volunteer, you must be ready to perform a wide variety of tasks, many of which you have absolutely no experience with. Furthermore, you will certainly be thrown into some of these tasks with absolutely no warning, just as a disaster happens – on a whim. One of these instances was when I participated in the “Sound the Alarm: Save a Life” campaign, a program that mobilizes the power of volunteers to install smoke detectors in homes and businesses. This program is vital to the mission of the Red Cross, and it has resulted in the prevention of numerous house fires.

When I arrived to work early on a Saturday morning, I was expecting to install smoke alarms. I had prepared intensively, reading manuals and listening to YouTube tutorials. However, I was assigned to be an educator, and my responsibility was to help the family understand the mission of the Red Cross as it relates to this campaign. Normally, I do not like plans changing at the last second, but the Red Cross has taught me to be much more flexible. Also, upon reflecting on the task that was set before me, I realized that this was perfect.

Since I am blind, I have extensive experience in educating everyone from teachers to doctors to peers about blindness and how it does not hold me back. I’ve spread the NFB mission, so why not the mission of the Red Cross? I am great with answering questions, and I am a people person, so I was quite excited to be educating families about an organization that I love: The Red Cross. As the morning progressed, I talked with many families and helped them to understand more about the Red Cross. I even assisted two different individuals with signing up to become volunteers, which is unprecedented at the Sound the Alarm events.

Most importantly, though, I was able to weave blindness education into my day, as most families were not accustomed to seeing a blind person volunteering with a large organization. I was able to answer questions about my cane, accommodations I may need while volunteering, and so much more. A small child even said to me excitedly, “Awesome! I want my own [cane]! Can it be blue?” That was most definitely the highlight of my day, and it also helps me to see what kind of an impact I am having on those who otherwise may not have been exposed to someone who is blind.

This is why I believe so strongly in the mission of the NFB Community Service Division. Blind people are constantly shortchanged and their abilities are not recognized simply because they cannot see. We must strive to illustrate to the general public that we are capable, and we will not be stopped by lack of vision or lack of support from others. The Red Cross has helped me greatly by allowing me to participate in service activities without judgement. I hope that each person within the NFB Community Service Division finds some organization that makes them feel the same way as the Red Cross makes me feel so that we can prove that blind people can give as opposed to always being on the receiving end of community service.