Our mission to reduce burn injuries and support burn survivors is bolstered by the dedication and hard work of our volunteers. These volunteers are the backbone of our organization, offering their time, skills, and compassion to help us carry out our life-changing work. Their roles range from educating the community on burn prevention to directly supporting burn survivors through rehabilitation and recovery programs.
Recognizing the vital contributions of our volunteers, we are honored to introduce you to one of our Fire Safe Senior volunteers, Joseph Chen.
What inspired you to volunteer at the Burn Institute?
I was previously volunteering with the Red Cross Sound the Alarm program. One point there was a mutual event where both organizations installed smoke alarms, I don’t remember exactly where or when since it was so long ago, but I believe it was at a manufactured home park. I was curious as I had heard about the Burn Institute but never volunteered with the organization before. After some time, I had stopped with the Red Cross and wanted to begin volunteering again, so I reached out and the rest is history. That was over 5 years ago as Tuesday, January 29th was my volunteer orientation.
2.) Can you tell me what it is like working for our Fire Safe Senior program?
It’s great! One great thing that I enjoy is the flexibility and no-nonsense approach of the program. It allows us the volunteers to use our best judgement to handle each situation and tailor it to each client. Sam, our coordinator, is excellent and he does a good job checking in with us if there are any issues.
3.) Can you describe a challenge you’ve faced during your volunteer work and how you addressed it?
Sometimes clients are unaware that the new fire codes have been updated to have a smoke detector in each bedroom. There have been a few clients who have strongly pushed back on this and view it as unnecessary. When this happens we take the time to explain to them the reason for smoke detectors, mainly that they are designed to wake up someone who is sleeping and that the speed that fires can spread make early detection, if only for a few extra seconds greatly enhances life safety.
4.) How do you feel your volunteer work is making a difference at the Burn Institute?
Yes, I know that my work, even if it doesn’t result in a “save” is important for our clients as I’ve heard it from multiple people many times over: The feeling of peace of mind and security is priceless. The seniors we serve often don’t have the time or mental energy to get smoke detectors replaced on their own, so our service that reduces the “friction” to get it done is well worth the cause.
5.) What would you say to someone else who is considering volunteering for the Burn Institute but has not yet decided?
I would tell them that this organization makes it “easy” to volunteer. Often, there are multiple barriers to enter volunteering, so having an easy way to get some idea of what the experience will be like helps to get a first step into volunteering.
6.) What brings you joy?
I have a late-night hobby of refurbishing IKEA furniture. I call it woodworking lite. Someday I may graduate into making or repairing “real” furniture (LOL!).