Three Pillars of Life Help Busy Volunteer Find Balance and Rewards

By Tom Ruse, American Red Cross

It’s no accident that Lavina Harjani continues to find the right fit for her to volunteer with the American Red Cross, regardless of significant changes in her life that affect her busy schedule. She’s a consummate volunteer.

Lavina stays extremely busy with her job as a sales representative for a pharmaceutical company, her family with five children, and community work including as a Dispatch Duty Officer as well as a Disaster Action Team member for the Red Cross. She describes her job, family and community service as the three pillars of a complete, balanced life.

Lavina Harjani invites people to learn about the mission of the American Red Cross during a community event outside Camp Randall Stadium. Submitted photo

“Those are the areas that I prioritize,” she explained. “They influence everything I do.”

Lavina has worked in her full-time career for more than 20 years and volunteered with many organizations during that time prior to joining the Red Cross as a volunteer 10 years ago. As her family has grown over the past few years, she’s made changes to her schedule, but she still regularly volunteers every week.

For years as a Disaster Action Team (DAT) volunteer, Lavina has appreciated helping people in stressful situations.

“When I do get called for a Disaster Action event, I get a real rush to be a part of the team,” said Lavina. “I just love helping people and being on hand at a critical time of need. There’s something to being there, face to face. You can really see the relief on their faces when they’re receiving help. It’s really rewarding.”

Lavina explained the day-to-day as a Disaster Action Team member: “On site, we talk to a police officer or firefighter to get some background on what’s going on. Then I ask the client what happened and just listen to them tell their story. We listen, take notes, provide whatever care is needed; food, health services, financial, water, comfort kits. Toys for kids. Footwear. Blankets. It can be overwhelming, so we’re trained to take things one thing at a time and just comfort them. It can be at a Red Cross facility or on a bus in front of their residence.”

As a Dispatch Duty Officer, Lavina helps train others as well as fields calls herself.

“The first thing is to find the right amount of time to devote. Commit to a regular schedule. And when you get a call, it’s of course usually an emergency situation so there’s a lot of stress and anxiety for them. They are in a disaster situation and they’ve typically lost something or someone dear to them. We need to listen and be patient. We need to ‘be their calm’.”

Over the years a growing family has meant that her service levels have evolved as well. But she stresses that regardless of your interests and skills, or how much (or little) time you may have, there’s something that fits for anyone to fulfill their life balance with the community service.

“There are so many opportunities to help, anyone can find the right thing for them.”

A Family Affair

At a Harlem Globetrotters basketball game, the Red Cross collected funds and asked for volunteers to go to the game. Lavina and her husband, Tom Laude, and two of the five children in their family, Sam and Jack Laude, volunteered together. Submitted photo

Lavina volunteers on average 80-to-90 hours a month, while balancing a full-time job that requires her to travel a lot. Her husband Tom is on call 24/7 during his shifts as a volunteer firefighter in Cottage Grove. Tom is retired and formerly served in the Army.

Tom and the kids all donate or volunteer their time. This has been a family affair since the kids were young. As Christmas gifts, the kids give Lavina the gift of donations.

Remember the three pillars that form Lavina’s life balance? They’re like three legs of stool – each as important as the next and they work together equally. Experiences and skills learned from one area help Lavina in the others.

“With the Red Cross I learn ways to deal with folks in disaster situations that help me with my own family. I’ve learned patience, and how to be an active listener, and much more. These are skills that help me at home and at work every single day”.

Let the Red Cross help you fulfill your community service pillar. There are tons of ways for you to be involved. Reach out to the Red Cross to find out about opportunities in your area that can fulfill your particular interests and schedule.

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