This Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re highlighting Hispanic men and women who play a pivotal role in helping the American Red Cross accomplish its humanitarian mission every day. This week, we’d like to highlight Mariana Arredondo, a volunteer for the American Red Cross of Arkansas. Here is a conversation we had with her around Hispanic Heritage Month and the importance of giving back.
Why is your Hispanic heritage important to you?
Hispanic Heritage month is important to me because the Hispanic community greatly contributes to the United States’ growth and development. When I think of Hispanic Heritage month, my dad immediately comes to mind. He is my hero and so are the millions of other Hispanics who have left their country, their cultures and their traditions to work in the United States and contribute to this country’s wealth.
Why do you believe Hispanic Heritage Month is important?
Hispanics come to the U.S. to give their families a higher quality of life and a brighter future. That is why this month is so important, because there is a reason behind each job or action a Hispanic person does. There is a story behind it with a bigger cause. They stand for something and represent something much bigger than just a “job.”
How and why did you get involved with the Red Cross?
I originally got involved with the Red Cross because I wanted to volunteer with an organization that benefits the community as a whole. I was hoping to simply volunteer by helping out with whatever I could; however, I have always had a passion for communications. I love speaking, writing and interacting with different people. I saw the opportunity to volunteer and help the community while doing something I absolutely love, so I took it. Nothing brings me more joy than interviewing others, hearing their stories, seeing how their face lights up while talking about their experiences with the Red Cross and how they have helped others. It’s priceless.
Who are your role models?
My role models are my parents. I have and always will admire them. My dad saw the opportunity to come to the U.S. and he took it just for us. He wanted to give me and my sister the opportunity to receive a good education that would bring us far in life. He repeatedly said “I just want you to be successful in something you love doing, I do this for you guys,” to me and my sister throughout our lives.
On the other hand, my mother is my role model because she left the life she had always known and followed my dad to the U.S. She spoke no English, unlike my dad, and she didn’t know anyone. She stayed strong for us, always smiling when she dropped us off at school and telling us to have a good day. Today my mother speaks fluent English, volunteers at churches and was a former pre-school teacher in Alabama. My parents’ determination and love for me and my sister will forever make me view my parents as more than just role models.
What does it mean for you to give back?
For me, giving back means giving back to the community. I believe one has to respect and love their community and/or the place they live. To me, giving back means being thankful for everything that I have been blessed with throughout the years. I know not everyone has the same opportunities as me, but I would like to help others so that they can also live a good life. I want people to better themselves and go out there and live their life, their dreams, and their passions. I want to be able to give back to them all the joy and happiness that I experience every day. Seeing others happy makes me just as happy because I know I’m contributing not only to the community, but the world.
How would you encourage others to get involved with the Red Cross or in their communities?
I would encourage others to get involved with Red Cross by getting the word out. There are so many great things the Red Cross does for others, and if people knew more about them they would want to help out. It’s amazing how much I have learned from working here over the last couple of months, and I’m sure that if more people came to this realization, they would be amazed. Working with the Red Cross is life changing not just for those you help, but for yourself as well.
What is your proudest life achievement?
My proudest achievement in life happened a couple of months back. My dad works at steel company where they were offering a college scholarship. I decided to fill out an application for it along with an essay. Months later, I received an email notifying me that I had been selected as one of the recipients for this award. It gave me such joy to be selected. With this scholarship, I felt as if I was making my parents proud by doing as much as possible to contribute to my education.