Red Cross volunteer Jake Johnson caught up with Santino Thomas, Volunteer Partner to the Chief Communications Officer to talk about volunteering and life during Covid -19

How has your life changed with quarantine and how does it impact how you do the Red Cross mission?

“We’ve had to learn to adapt to how we go about everyday business. We’ve had to really be at the top of our game as far as communications skills are concerned. A lot can get lost in translation when you’re emailing or texting and what not. I think communication skills are something a lot of people struggle with, so I’m sure this has been a challenge for a lot of people. In trying to stay safe and protected and protect my family from contracting COVID-19, we’ve definitely been more isolated. Typically I am a people person, I love to be around friends and family and that’s been something that we’ve been able to do only sparingly, which has been disappointing. So a big part of my life is being with friends and family and it’s something I look forward to and I haven’t been able to do that.

As far as life at the Red Cross, a lot of our communication, again, has been remote, so we’re trying to organize things like press conferences and other events. It’s really a lot of people working together, going in the same direction and being a true example of a team, because when you’re spread out like this, it’s very difficult to accomplish big tasks. So again, we had to adapt to things remotely. Of course, when trying to get photo opportunities or hosting press conferences, things that would normally be on my mind: PR, communications capacity, making sure that our people are positioned in an area that’s good for lighting for news cameras, and making sure the audio systems work, things like that. Now you have to be hyper-sensitive instead to: are people far enough apart? Are people wearing masks? Just really social distancing related things. Social distancing is necessary, but it definitely presents a challenge when you’re talking PR and communications.

It says quite a bit about the communications staff and volunteers that they’re able to really work together to put out the message of the Red Cross even when we’re apart and spread out. Whether it’s from a work stand point, a volunteer standpoint, COVID-19 and home isolation has added to that. For me personally, my wife and I have an eight-month-old at home and that’s provided some challenges as well, but also given us great opportunity with our new daughter.”

Have you learned any new skills during Quarantine and or how do you keep busy?

“There are some things I’ve decided to take the opportunity to develop. I’m always looking into ways that I can develop my skill set as a professional. Some of those things you just need the time to do it and obviously we’ve had time for those kinds of things. So I have been using this time to gain more experience with programs like Adobe InDesign and more with Adobe Photoshop. I have been working on learning a couple languages, mainly Spanish and Mandarin. If you ever wanted to learn new skills, now is the time. And of course, I’m also learning how to be a dad, so that is skill number one that I’ve been working on. 

The Red Cross volunteer work has definitely helped me fill this time, as well as my volunteer work with St. Catherine’s. Spending time with my wife and daughter. Done a lot of that. Done some serious home improvement projects as well, some renovating. I’ve learned a lot of new skills with that when it comes to tearing down walls and opening rooms and dry walling and building structures and electrical, so I’ve definitely done some of that during this isolation as well.”