The American Red Cross is asking students to help make the holidays happy for victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita this winter.

UCSB students recently deployed to the Gulf Coast by the Red Cross will share their stories and encourage other students to volunteer over winter break tonight at 6 in Snidecor Hall’s Hatlen Theatre. The event, titled “I Saw Katrina: A Student Panel,” will also cover basic emergency procedures for disaster relief.

UCSB American Red Cross Vice Presidents Kaitin Bhakta, a second-year biochemistry major, said the event should help bring the disaster wrought by the hurricanes to students’ attention.

“Students need to realize that this concerns our whole nation,” Bhakta said. “People will be shocked by the pictures they will see and the stories they will hear.”

Jennifer Haake, public relations coordinator for the Santa Barbara chapter of the Red Cross, said Gulf Coast relief workers have no way of knowing what type of help they will need in December. However, she said volunteers with certain skills — such as people with backgrounds in nursing — are currently in short supply.

Besides nursing, Haake said students deployed to the Gulf Coast could handle a wide variety of tasks,

“Deployments to the Gulf usually last about two weeks and may include activities such as emergency response, vehicle operation, food serving and inter-shelter communication,” Haake said.

The Red Cross will pay for students’ travel arrangements to the regions affected by the hurricanes, Haake said. But, she said the Red Cross cannot guarantee deployment to any specific region, such as New Orleans.

Aaron Jones, A.S. government advisor, said he encourages students to volunteer for what he considers a worthy cause.

“All I know is that there are a lot of people who need a lot of help,” Jones said.

For more information, or to volunteer, contact the Santa Barbara Red Cross at (805) 6887-1331.