Hispanic Heritage Month: Red Crossers Reflect on Their Callings to Serve

For one couple, volunteering and giving back is a pillar of who they are and a foundation of their upbringing. Isabel Bravo and Jose Perez both grew up with a shared value of serving others.

Bravo is the Director of Environmental, Health and Safety at Wonderful Citrus-California Farming Operations and serves as the Vice Chair of the Kern & Eastern Sierras Chapter Board of Directors. She enjoys giving back to her community by preparing the next generation of safety professionals and the inclusion of women and minorities to our industry through her roles in Bakersfield American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) and Women in Safety Excellence (WISE). Born in Mexico, she came to the US as a young child with a duty to give back that was instilled in her by her parents.

Perez is Corporate Director at the Wonderful Company, and he serves as a Community Volunteer Leader for the Kern & Eastern Sierras Chapter. An immigrant from Mexico and a former farmworker of the California Central Valley, Perez now educates others in preparedness and safety practices through his profession and as a member of executive boards and strategic committees for the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP), the Agricultural Safety and Health Council of America (ASHCA), and the Institute of Hazardous Materials Management (IHMM).

Perez began his Red Cross journey thirteen years ago first as a CPR instructor, then as a home fire responder for six years in Tulare County. When someone experiences a home fire, Red Cross Disaster Action Team volunteers arrive on scene to comfort their neighbors and provide financial assistance. Perez explained that “it’s important as first responders that we have a shared heritage, language and culture with our fellow community members to build trust with our clients that are in a vulnerable situation.”

After taking a break from volunteering, Perez came back to the Red Cross as a Community Volunteer Leader, while sticking to his roots of disaster services by helping in shelters and coordinating Be Red Cross Ready presentations in Spanish.  

Jose would often bring his daughter Arianna with him to Red Cross activities to share his love of volunteering with her.

Bravo joined the Red Cross after Board Chair Carolyn Forster extended an invitation to her. “That invite came at the perfect time… it was like I found a calling at the Red Cross that matched my desire to serve. The Red Cross encourages you to be your authentic self.”

Both recently toured a Red Cross shelter in Lake Isabella that was supporting evacuees of the French Fire. In their official capacity as a Board Member and Community Volunteer Leader, they learned about the various community organizations that come together to serve their community during a disaster. Bravo shared, “I was so impressed with how everyone has an important role during a relief operation – from the pet shelters, to the showers, to the health and mental health services being offered, it was great to see all these organizations working in collaboration to serve the mission of caring for individuals affected by a disaster.”

Red Cross aid is an outright gift. It is provided by voluntary contributions from the American people

Just last month, Perez signed up for a shelter worker shift in Porterville to help care for residents evacuated by the Windy Fire. The thing that stood out to him the most? A Red Cross poster that declared Red Cross aid is an outright gift. It is provided by voluntary contributions from the American people. “That stuck with me because I came to this country from Mexico where the Red Cross symbol is one of importance… to then see this and be able to return that gift by volunteering fulfills my internal value to do my part.”

Bravo emphasized, “I am proud of who I am and my heritage, and that I have found ways to directly make an impact on my community while also inspiring others to join me.”

Isabel attended National Night Out this month with fellow Red Crossers Oscar Mejia and Manny Lerma to share Red Cross preparedness materials and volunteer information.

When asked what she wished others knew about the Red Cross, she recommended “don’t wait until after a disaster affects your community. Join us now so you can help when it’s needed most.”

Together they want to help Latinos “find their home at the Red Cross. When you see someone that looks like you, you feel that sense of belonging and realize that ‘I can give back’. Everyone can contribute their time, talent and treasure in a variety of ways here.”

Their different journeys to how they came to the Red Cross resembles much about why we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. We are deeply grateful for the work our Red Cross volunteers have done and are doing. We celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month because, without our Hispanic volunteers, we would not be able to offer Spanish preparedness classes, communicate with our clients after disasters, work with our Spanish media outlets conducting Spanish interviews, and so much more. We are able to reach our Hispanic communities in the United States as well as abroad only because of individuals like Jose and Isabel and thousands of others. To learn more about becoming a volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.

“If you want to do good, you can do that here at the Red Cross.”

Jose Perez

By Taylor Poisall, Communications Director

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