Audrey Berdahl-Baldwin ’16, American Red Cross

Audrey-Berdahl-BaldwinOn the morning of January 9, 2013, I enjoyed a lovely walk in our nation’s capital over to the American Red Cross Headquarters and began a wonderful day with my Princeternship host, Ms. Carrie Santos ’88, who is the Senior Director of International Policy and External Affairs at the American Red Cross. Ms. Santos warmly welcomed me, taking me out for coffee and sitting down with me to tell me more about her incredible work. Ms. Santos had arranged an exciting day for me, which gave me a glimpse of the many facets of her job and of her abilities; the day also provided the opportunity to meet with many of her coworkers, helping to highlight a number of different aspects of the critical and substantive work being done by the International Services Division of the American Red Cross.

One of the staff members I had the opportunity to speak with was the Director of International Policy and Relations. He outlined his responsibilities and objectives, discussing the myriad of dynamics that he considers as he works to support the American Red Cross as part of the global Red Cross/Red Crescent network. Our engaging conversation illuminated both the challenges and opportunities that engage the Red Cross’ humanitarian mission.

My next meeting was with a Senior Associate of International Humanitarian Law Dissemination. The American Red Cross educates people across the United States on humanitarian principles and laws and communicates with other Red Cross/Red Crescent sites around the world about how they are fulfilling this mission. This program’s work sparked my interest in how this initiative can help foster a peaceful country – and world – through entering classrooms, colleges, and other settings and communicating humanizing values that respect the dignity of all human beings.

Baldwin 1I proceeded to a meeting in Ms. Santos’ office, involving directors of different programs under the umbrella of international policy and external affairs. I enjoyed the opportunity to see an example of how Ms. Santos’ work was manifested on a day-to-day basis. Ms. Santos provided clear leadership that valued and benefitted from the talents of her colleagues, leading to an inspiring and tangible experience of many gifted people working together for a common objective in the service of our shared humanity.

Afterward, I had the chance to meet with the Director of the Reconnecting Family Links program. A shining testament to the Red Cross’ humanitarian mission, this beautiful program helps to reunite families after a disaster or conflict. Utilizing the global Red Cross/Red Crescent network, the Red Cross is able to send messages and find family members who may have been separated recently or as far back as World War II. I was moved hearing some of examples of this program’s work and learning of the Red Cross’ persistence and dedication in helping to reconnect families.

In the afternoon, some staff members greeted me, and we headed down to the cafeteria for lunch. I appreciated everyone’s kindness, sincerity, and advice and liked learning more about their work at the American Red Cross.

After lunch, I had a phone conference with a Senior Associate of Communications and Marketing who focuses on areas in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, in addition to International Humanitarian Law issues. She provided an overview of the American Red Cross’ impressive communications and marketing division, offering a unique perspective on circulating information and facilitating social engagement through a variety of mediums. I was also interested in how the American Red Cross monitors news and social media to track where their help may be needed.

When the phone conference was over, Ms. Santos introduced me to the Senior Officer of Event Management in the International Services Division. As they took me on a tour of other nearby, beautiful, and historic Red Cross buildings, I became aware of some of the responsibilities involved in event management. I was amazed to discover some of the topics that must be considered when planning an event, especially at an international setting. Another highlight of the tour was the chance to learn more about the Red Cross’ history.

When we returned to the headquarters, I met with a memberBaldwin 3 from the Fields Operations Office in the International Response Operations Center. He was one of the first responders to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. It was amazing to learn about the impressive levels of thoughtful organization that go into the American Red Cross’ important work on an international stage. We also received a tour of the center responsible for operations related to domestic disasters.

I headed back to Ms. Santos’ office, where she was having a meeting with a consultant for the American Red Cross. The diverse and full workload of Ms. Santos revealed the integral connection between the strengths of the Red Cross and its ability to be successful in its work. Having just taken a course on philanthropy, it was particularly exciting to witness the incredible organization of such a powerful, important, well-known, and established nonprofit and to see its people actively investing in keeping the Red Cross vibrant.

I concluded my Princeternship by talking with Ms. Santos about my impressions from the day. I was amazed by the goodness and sense of camaraderie that united the people I met as they worked to fulfill the Red Cross’ beautiful mission. I was deeply moved by all of the staff’s dedication to the Red Cross’ core principles of “humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity, and universality.” My day at the American Red Cross filled me with hope for our shared future and a strong sense of patriotism. Ms. Santos was tremendously generous, helping me throughout the day, introducing me to her spectacular staff, answering my questions, inspiring me with the example of her impressive career path, offering advice, and hosting me for this outstanding Princeternship. The opportunity to spend the day with Ms. Santos at the American Red Cross was truly an honor and a gift. I wish to thank Career Services, the staff at the American Red Cross, and especially Ms. Santos for an extraordinary day!