Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas and Louisiana in August of 2017. The day after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, Elvia Alaniz decided it was time to get serious about volunteering. Alaniz was working in the medical field for around seven years when she decided to volunteer with the American Red Cross in the communication department. She applied to be a volunteer out of the Texas Gulf Coast Region and was on the ground in no time.
The first night volunteering for Hurricane Harvey, Alaniz received a phone call from her sister and learned her grandmother was a volunteer with the Mexican Red Cross. It solidified her work with the Red Cross and fueled her desire to carry out more volunteer work.
Alaniz joined the communication department without previous background in the field, but that didn’t keep her from trying something new. She dug in right away to work on writing stories, conducting interviews, translating content, as well as taking on photography and videography. Photography, however, is not new to Alaniz; it’s one of her passions and hobbies.
Not only does Alaniz conduct communication affairs, but she also volunteers her time to the Bulk and Distribution Team, Logistics Team, Transportation Team, Disaster Action Team (DAT). She has been trained in mass sheltering, mass feeding, casework, Psychological First Aide, recovery fundamentals, forklift machinery, First Aide and more.
Over the last five years, Alaniz has deployed more than eight times. She has volunteered all over the U.S., but the national deployment in 2018 to help with California fire relief means the most to her.
“The disaster is still going on while we’re working, so you have to be on top of your job and your surroundings,” Alaniz said. “It has made me appreciate how short life can be. It was the first disaster relief I was able to do a live interview. I’ve been lucky to have great teachers, and I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without the people I have met in the Red Cross.”
Alaniz not only has a passion for photography but learning new languages. She is fluent in Spanish and is in the process of becoming fluent in Hindu, American Sign Language, as well as the Guatemalan language, P’Iche. Outside of photography and learning new languages, Alaniz enjoys singing, as well as playing the piano and flute.
Her work with the Red Cross doesn’t stop at communication and disaster work. Alaniz is in the process of becoming a Service to the Armed Forces volunteer. What stuck out the most in the past five years with the Red Cross is getting to meet volunteers of all ethnic backgrounds from across the globe. While working on the Hurricane Harvey disaster, Alaniz got the opportunity to work with the Mexican Red Cross. This was a very special moment in her career and made her feel like her experience had come full circle. She even has her Abuela’s Mexican Red Cross vest and holds the piece of heritage close to her heart.
Story by Kyndal Dugger