Training Our Servants

by Nicole Chin '08

On September 17, Azusa Pacific University, in collaboration with the American Red Cross San Gabriel Valley chapter, trained more than 1,500 people preparing them for deployment across the United States to assist those devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Activity buzzed on West Campus beginning at 7 a.m. as volunteers showed up for registration. The training officially began around 9 a.m. when attendees, 40 percent APU students, were ushered into the Richard and Vivian Felix Event Center. APU served as the designated training hub for the San Gabriel Valley and the 35 communities they cover.

Throughout Saturday and Sunday, volunteers participated in an abridged version of the Red Cross training to meet certification requirements in order to be deployed within a 24-48 hour notice over the next four months to various shelters in the U.S.

Students, staff, and faculty were among those trained this past weekend as the Institute of Outreach Ministries (IOM) and Azusa Pacific’s administration have collaborated to give them the opportunity assist those in need.

“It’s a great opportunity to put our feet to our values and our beliefs,” said attendee Gary Lemaster, Ph.D., associate professor of the School of Business and Management. “It gives students the opportunity to see the importance of giving back to society. It says here’s a way we can help people, not just tell them we care or pray for them, but to really show them.”

Throughout the training, participants were encouraged to “be flexible” and cautioned to be ready for anything. Numerous jobs that volunteers may take over upon reaching their destinations are simple things like serving food or sorting supplies at Red Cross shelters. Not only could they be deployed to Louisiana or any other place in the Gulf Coast, but also to Texas or Alabama – anywhere where a shelter is located.

“This is such an amazing experience,” said Roshawn Ceja ’07. “I wanted to help, but most disasters you can’t up and go, so when I heard APU was allowing students to take time to go, I was motivated. We’re being trained to serve our city, our nation, and our world. This is what learning should be.”

At the training, Red Cross workers explained to volunteers that they could find themselves working 12-hour days in heat and humidity, sleeping on the floor in volunteer housing, and sharing showers with 70 other helpers. As part of the APU and Red Cross collaboration, students, staff, and faculty have the opportunity to serve for a nine-day period (two weekends and one week), without missing too many of their academic responsibilities. Community volunteers may be deployed for up to 21 days.

At many of the question and answer sessions hosted by Associated Student Body (ASB) and IOM, students were reminded that they would be “working with people who have lost everything.” In a letter APU presented to participants, APU expressed how much they wanted volunteers to remember that they are bringing joy to victims who have lost hope.

“It’s a way for me to put my faith into action,” said Gloria Llamas, a volunteer. “For me, my relationship with God is important, but I don’t believe it’s complete unless I live it out. “

ASB President Tiffany Porter feels especially close to the situation since she has family located in the south. She values the opportunity APU has created in response to the natural disaster. “It’s worth it,” she said. “I can’t pass this opportunity up. You’re only missing a week. I’d rather have an extra week of homework then no clothes, and no home.”

The American Red Cross believes this will be an ongoing effort, continuing well into March 2006. For more information, visit APU’s Hurricane Katrina Relief Effort webpage or visit the San Gabriel Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross .