Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Lesson in Outreach

Red Cross Holocaust and 
War Victims Tracing Volunteer 
Donna Winkler (standing) reviews 
Red Cross documentation with 
Ana Aleksiev. 

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, many people keep to themselves while they check off their never-ending list of people to shop for. So today, we wanted to share this great example of outreach. 

Our volunteer extraordinaire, Donna Winkler, is a caseworker for our chapter's Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center. Here, she explains how outreach is not as scary and complicated as it's reputation precedes. 

Outreach, instead, is simple - reaching out, even if it's to one person.

- Donna Winkler

I had always thought that those doing 'Outreach' were doing something miraculous and mysterious.  That one had to go out into the cold world and knock on unfamiliar doors and ask for money.  Not true.   

At a recent dinner I attended, a woman approached me and told me that she wanted information about tracing her relatives who were lost during World War II. Asking for her business card, I agreed to be in touch. When I returned to the chapter office a few days later, I sent her a short note telling her of my delight in meeting her. I enclosed my contact information and the form necessary to begin the Tracing Process.

About a month later, she called me and apologized for not getting the forms back to me. She didn't want me to think that she was ungrateful for my offer of help. But after receiving information from another organization, her quest had been completed.  I told her how pleased I was that she had received the information she needed and if she needed anything further, she could contact me again.  

Just before we ended the conversation, she said to me, "I can't tell you enough how much I appreciate that you reached out to me." 

Huh? I thought.  I didn't reach out to her - she reached out to me! Still, she was clearly grateful to have had some follow up on her request from Red Cross. 

I thought about this for a while and I realized that outreach is simply making contact.  To do outreach, all one has to do is extend a hand and say, 'This is what I do and if you ever need some help, I am here for you."  Anyone can do it.

Donna recently has done just that.  Read this story (here) of how her outreach efforts connected a Phoenix woman with her Polish ancestry after decades of not having any information.

If you would like to learn more about the Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Unit, visit their homepage on our website.

No comments:

Post a Comment