National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the histories, cultures, and contributions of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. 

Twelve years ago Dr. Farré-Rigau, a retired University of Puerto Rico professor, sat at a local university’s workshop about different volunteer possibilities in Puerto Rico. She met Doña Mirta, a dedicated American Red Cross volunteer who spoke about her experience with the Red Cross with such detail and enthusiasm that it was contagious. Dr. Farré-Rigau signed up as an Red Cross volunteer the next day.

Dr. Farré-Rigau’s passion for teaching carried over. She soon found herself facilitating and training both on the island and on the mainland. In person and virtually, in English and Spanish. She has trained hundreds of Red Cross volunteers both in Puerto Rico and on the mainland.

The Red Cross offers a wide variety of training opportunities in many areas. Dr. Farré-Rigau is now a Volunteer Services Advanced Master Instructor, Disaster Cycle Services Instructor Trainer and is the Puerto Rico Reginal Training Advisor. She has facilitated Red Cross courses in Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands (St. Thomas, St. Croix), Florida (Fort Myers, Sarasota, Tampa, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Tallahassee), Tennessee (Memphis, Jackson Nashville), Georgia, and Texas.

Among her many roles, she was a disaster responder in deployments to Florida after Hurricane Matthew (2016,) to Texas for Hurricane Harvey (2017), Puerto Rico and Florida for Hurricane Irma (2017), and later for Hurricane Maria the same year.

Collaborating with the American Red Cross-National Headquarters’ Learning Solutions, she has facilitated and taught Spanish language disaster training nationwide. She has also translated a wide variety of materials and edited Spanish translation of Red Cross courses to pave the way for more robust opportunities for training in Spanish moving forward.

Dr. Farré-Rigau’s service to the American Red Cross has been recognized with various awards, including her being the recipient of the 2021 American Red Cross Latino Resource Group “Nuestro Orgullo” (Our Pride) Award; recipient of the 2017 American Red Cross-National Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Award; and the 2012 PR Chapter Volunteer of the Year Award.

In an effort to make the Red Cross more inclusive, Dr. Farré-Rigau strives to recruit more Spanish-speaking volunteers to better serve not only Puerto Rico but also the more than 45 million Spanish speakers on the mainland. In her words, “Potential volunteers should be aware of the many opportunities for service within the Red Cross. By becoming part of something much greater than oneself, Red Crossers can impact a much wider universe. In all lines of service, volunteers learn valuable skills and become a part of a highly organized community which is mission driven with a clear sense of purpose.”

Volunteers like Dr. Ylda Farré-Rigau serve the Red Cross mission through a wide variety of service opportunities such as teaching life-saving skills, providing emergency preparation, serving families in need, donating blood and much more. The Red Cross of the Southwest region says thank you to Dr. Farré-Rigau and to all our Hispanic volunteers for their tireless dedication and commitment to our lifesaving mission.

Story By F. A. Philibert