I decided that after Katrina I would continue to volunteer my skills as a mental health professional to the Red Cross. I have now been deployed on 13 national disasters and many local ones.
Dr. Samuel “Sam” Cameron joined Arcadia in 1964 as assistant professor of Psychology and clinical psychologist to the College. During his career at Arcadia, Dr. Cameron originated and directed the Department of Psychology’s master’s program in counseling; directed nine National Science Foundation Summer Institutes for high school psychology teachers; and co-edited, with Mark Curchack and Dr. Michael Berger, the 2003 book, A 150-Year History of Beaver College and Arcadia University. Upon his retirement in 2003, Dr. Cameron was named Professor Emeritus of Psychology. Today, Dr. Cameron volunteers as faculty archivist three afternoons a week.
Since he started volunteering with the American Red Cross during the response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Dr. Cameron has been deployed nationally more than a dozen times. His assignments have included the repatriation of American Lebanese citizens during the Israeli conflict, floods, wildfires, ice storms, and tornados. Each deployment has been different and each challenging in its own way.
Here, he recounts his deployment with the National American Red Cross in Kentucky this past summer.
“In mid-July, heavy storms over a three-day period pummeled the central and eastern areas of Kentucky. Particularly hard hit was the small Appalachian town of Flatgap. Many homes were swept downstream and there were four deaths. A state of emergency was declared and, along with responders from other agencies, the National American Red Cross deployed me as part of a team of disaster action volunteers.
“I first served as a mental health volunteer with the American Red Cross 10 years ago when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. On that initial assignment, I witnessed the good that the Red Cross did in feeding, sheltering, providing financial help, and comforting those struck by disaster. I decided that, after Katrina, I would continue to volunteer my skills as a mental health professional to the Red Cross. I have now been deployed on 13 national disasters and many local ones.
“Over the years, I have been promoted to Mental Health Manager. In Kentucky, I found myself managing a small mental health team working in Flatgap. That meant that I was in the office writing reports while my team was out in the field doing good deeds. They serviced a shelter, did condolence visits to the families of those killed, responded to emergency mental health referrals, and provided mental health support to their fellow Red Cross workers. How I envied them. After about a week, some delayed reports arrived of isolated disaster areas in the area of Morehead, north of Flatgap. As I did not have any volunteers to send, I dispatched myself to the area. At last I was back out in the field! While following up on the reported incidences, I found a number of families whose houses had been surrounded by raging flood waters and had feared for their lives.
“Fortunately, their homes were high enough that they had not been swept away. Although the individuals were traumatized, because their houses were relatively undamaged, they had not been reported and services had not, until then, been delivered. It is positive interactions like that that make volunteer work so rewarding and motivate me to continue serving.”