Wisconsin Region spotlight: Q&A with Chris Christinrajah

Every few months, we’re highlighting the incredible work toward the mission of the American Red Cross by one of our colleagues in the Wisconsin Region. Hopefully these short profiles provide a little light of positivity and inspiration across all lines of service in our humanitarian mission.

This latest profile is on Chris Christinrajah, a Disaster Services Program manager, with a unique background and experiences tied to the mission of the Red Cross. Questions were asked by members of the Region communications team, and edited for style and space.

American Red Cross: Tell us about your professional background and your role at the Red Cross. 

Chris Christinrajah: I have been working with humanitarian organizations for over 20 years. I performed various positions with organizations like Sarvodaya and Sri Lanka Unites. And I served hundreds of thousands of people in Sri Lanka during civil war, tsunami, flooding and other disaster situations. I had the privilege of leading larger-level of relief operations, rehabilitation, resettlement and peace-building projects. 

This month, I am celebrating my fifth anniversary at American Red Cross. Over four years, I worked with Biomedical Services and helped collect life-saving blood donations. It was a rewarding opportunity to interact with a diverse range of blood donors. Now, I’m with Disaster Cycle services, and working as a Regional Program Manager for Response, Information and Planning in the Wisconsin Region. It is 24/7 work, and we are ready to respond whenever our clients need assistance. It always connects with people in need as well as people who want to help others, so great compassion is involved. It’s not an easy job, but I enjoy it because it touches on my purpose in life. 

Chris, left, with disaster team members Erin Vits, center, and Dianna Trush, before home fire safety visits in Milwaukee in spring 2022.

The mission of the Red Cross connects us to so many people. Can you share an anecdote about someone whose life was affected by your role or work at the Red Cross? 

Due to the civil war in Sri Lanka, I lived my entire childhood in refugee camps in India and Sri Lanka. I have seen the horror of the war and its impact on people’s lives, physically, emotionally, economically and socially. I was one of the victims and had been through a lot. When I was around 10-years old at the refugee camp, I said to myself that when I grew up, I would serve people affected by disaster situations. From there, I found my purpose in life. The Red Cross mission is deeply connected to my life experiences with alleviating human suffering. Working with American Red Cross is my great privilege and I am proud of it.

One of the programs I manage is the Disaster Duty officer program. Every day we make an impact on someone’s life. When we receive calls during a house fire, tornado, or flooding, and someone is in a difficult situation, they’re at a loss and experiencing trauma. The first call with the client is important to tell them that we’re here for them and supporting them. It is highly rewarding to see how they recover after they receive Red Cross assistance through Disaster Action Team and Recovery programs. 

How do you explain what you do to people outside the Red Cross? 

I do a lot of community activities in the greater Milwaukee area, from conducting sports to community events. Every day I interact with people, and they know I work for Red Cross. When they ask questions, I explain our regular relief activities, local and national [Disaster Relief Operations], including deployment of volunteers to sheltering and feeding. And I make my friends and families feel the American Red Cross stands with people during emergencies, and everyone should become a volunteer. I describe, really, that it’s all about contributing to the community.   

Chris, center, with his wife and children.

What is your hidden talent? Or a hobby you have that people may not know about? 

Because of my passion for bringing diverse people together, I’m involved in sports and recreational activities. I coach soccer and badminton in Brookfield. I love planning and executing community events such as parenting, mental health and volunteerism. When I am on PTO, I spend time with my family with three young children. We enjoy camping, hiking, road trips and other outdoor activities. 

What would you say to inspire someone to join the Red Cross – through training or as a blood donor, volunteer, or supporter? 

Our volunteers are my everyday inspiration. They are very compassionate and caring to our clients. They go above and beyond and contribute to our mission. They don’t expect anything, and they just want to help people. My role as a servant leader is to support them in performing their activities and help them grow in the organization. 

The purpose of life is not only about receiving, it’s about serving others. It’s so rewarding. So, I encourage people to find their meaning in life and the joy that comes from serving others. I love this quote stated by one of the volunteers. “Ultimately, volunteers want to have meaningful and interesting work, to make a difference in the lives of others – clients, the community, and ARC workers, and develop new and lasting friendships.”

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