Red Cross Volunteers Train To Help Fire Victims In California

Their faces are filled with compassion -- moved by the images of loss and suffering in Southern California.

"When I saw the fires on the news, it was just devastating," said Jessica Camacho. "And to see the hundreds of thousands of people that have been displaced."

Jessica Camacho is one of 80 South Mississippians who are ready to reach out to the helpless nearly 2,000 miles away. They are training to be Red Cross volunteers -- learning the roles, rules, and how to run a shelter.

"We're going to look and see what the needs are in California right now," a Red Cross instructor told the class.  "If there's a need that you can fill, we're absolutely going to get your availability out and try to get you out there."

"I was a resident of Irvine, California," Camacho said. "And when I heard about the disaster, it was very touching and moving. I just feel if you have an opportunity to do good and to help someone else, it's a duty to humanity."

The volunteers are willing to spend three weeks away from their families, jobs, and homes. To them, it's a small sacrifice, because they know what it's like to live through a disaster.

"Seeing people in the shelters, and the kids trying to play, you feel for them. It's boom, back to 2005," Becky Gatian said. "I really felt this was something perhaps that I could do to give back for what folks have done for us."

Whether it's food, shelter, or just a hug, the volunteers understand there's still much work to be done after the fires die out.

"With the training, it gets them ready to go. It gets them mentally psyched to go," said Bob Beebe with the American Red Cross. "They're going to be a definite help out there."

"Hopefully, they come out knowing that there are people here that care," Camacho said.

Not all the volunteers will go to California. They will be sent, if there's a request from the national Red Cross. Now that they're trained, the volunteers will be able to respond to local disasters as well.