By Tess Jewell-Larsen
When the video started, Nathan Keffer was not sure of the reactions that would come from watching the Red Cross and Red Crescent teach hand-washing songs to Haitian children. But when the video ends a 15-year-old boy who seems indifferent to anything but his own world of athletics speaks up. He wants to be a part of something that changes the quality of people’s lives. He wants to make a difference.
“That was one of the times that I thought, ‘wow, I’m really glad I’m doing this, that I have the opportunity to share this information that they wouldn’t necessarily find otherwise,’” Keffer, the Youth Services Coordinator of the Oregon Pacific Chapter of the American Red Cross, says. “If [this video] plants the seed where someday he wants to volunteer, whether its in Haiti or anywhere else in the world… then I’m doing my job, and I’m glad I’m doing it.”
Keffer works in the Oregon Pacific Chapter of the American Red Cross building, stationed in the Trainsong neighborhood of Eugene, Ore. The large building provides lots of open space as you walk in the front door. The secretary and information desk is the first thing you meet, with a large open area filled with tables behind it. There are fliers for Red Cross programs, such as the First Aid Service Team (FAST) course schedule for 2010, sitting in organizers on the right hand corner of the desk.
The Red Cross building is quiet, except for the murmuring of voices of those sitting at tables in the open common room, and people chatting within their offices as Keffer walks into his office. Keffer’s office is medium sized with windows as walls facing the entry and information desk. In the corner of his office is a small, white-framed picture. A smile breaks out onto his face: “My wife,” he says. On the wall is a pencil drawing of a girl and the words, “First Aid Service Team” elegantly written. A poster of Hayward Field also graces the wall, next to the drawing.
He is pleasant young man in his twenties, with a constant smile on his face and a cheerful tone in his voice. Keffer graduated in history, with a focus on Latin American history, from Ohio University in 2008. “Not the Buckeyes, so, Ducks fan’s don’t need to hate me for the Rose Bowl.”
Keffer, originally from the Pittsburgh, Penn., area, enjoys his life here in the northwest. “I love the outdoors, so Oregon is one of the best places to be for that,” especially after Ohio and Pennsylvania. However, “this, grey and drizzly stuff, I could do without.”
History may not be the main aspect of Keffer’s job description, but he tries to incorporate into his job by participating in international services programs, and teaching the youth about international issues. He does not get to go abroad or always work with international students, but he uses international humanitarian issues and Red Cross’ involvement to educate the youth.
A lingering “yes” embodies Keffer’s want like to see more happening in the Red Cross Youth Services programs. A chuckle follows. He has hopes to establish Red Cross groups in high schools and at the University of Oregon. He wants to set up a program called International Humanitarian Law (IHL), which plays into his strengths as a history major. But in the end the most important thing to Keffer is to introduce and educate the youth about situations that they are not necessarily exposed to in everyday life.
The 15-year-old youth watching the hand-washing video is part of FAST and is trained as a professional first-aid rescuer. He helps change and protect people’s lives. Just as Nathan Keffer hopes to inspire in all youth, this young man now has a type of confidence that enables him to make a difference in the world.