The British Red Cross has today launched a national campaign to sign up thousands of people willing to use their kindness to help others, when a major crisis hits their community.
The ‘community reserve volunteers’ will form a practical taskforce, working together as a team to help others by filling sandbags, preparing equipment or sorting food for their flooded community.
The Red Cross aims to build a team of 10,000 people by the end of 2019, starting with communities which have recently been hit by major flooding, like North Wales, Somerset and Cumbria. But community reserve volunteers could also help during other types of major incidents, like the Manchester and London terror attacks, or the Grenfell Tower fire.
The Red Cross has designed a simple online sign-up process, which only takes 10 minutes to complete, at www.redcross.org.uk/reserves. The role requires no long-term commitment or extensive training. People would be called out by text message in the event of a major emergency in their local area.
Simon Lewis, Head of Crisis Response for the British Red Cross, says, “We’ve seen, through the events of this year, including the Manchester Arena and London Bridge attacks and the Grenfell Tower disaster, extraordinary compassion shown by ordinary people from local communities, when a crisis hits. It shows you don’t always need special skills to help others. Small acts of kindness, and coming together as a team, can make a huge difference.
“We recognise people have busy lives and can’t always commit to volunteering all year round. This project is a way for people to be there to help others in their communities, by registering their willingness in advance. We would only call upon people at times of major crisis, which hopefully won’t happen often, but when it does, and extra help is needed, people will have the opportunity to do small things that make a big difference. There are many different ways of helping your community, but this is a new one.”
Mother-of-two Taran Vernon, 45, from Farnham, was motivated to sign up after surviving the Nepal earthquake. The experience made her want to help if something happened closer to home.
“We were doing a charity hike at Everest and were 500m from base camp on an exposed bit of mountain,” she says, “The ground was shaking for 45 seconds. We heard a rumble to our left as an avalanche of rubble came through. We were very lucky it missed us because you just couldn’t tell which direction it was coming from.
“We walked back through villages avoiding major cracks and unstable ground. Namche Bazaar, which had been buzzing with music and activity two days before, was now just rubble. The worst thing was seeing people just sitting there, their homes gone, mourning their missing family members.”
Taran and her group donated all their belongings to those affected and, once home, her experiences motivated her to sign up as a community reserve volunteer. “That’s why I connected with this so much,” she explains, “It’s something that definitely hit a nerve. If something like this happened in my community, I’d want to be able to do something to help.”
People can sign up online at www.redcross.org.uk/reserves by watching a short video, answering some quick questions and registering their details. Volunteers must be over 18, have a mobile phone and be prepared to carry out practical tasks during an emergency.