May is Red Cross Month

The Cayman Islands Red Cross is
once again launching its Red Cross Month activities with the aims of educating
the public about its services, recruiting new volunteers, and raising some much
needed funds.

International Red Cross Day is 8
May and is celebrated around the world as it marks the birthday of Henry
Dunant, the man who founded the Red Cross movement over 150 years ago.

So far 2010 has been a busy year
for the Red Cross.

“We started off the year launching
an appeal for the victims of the Haiti earthquake,” explains Disaster Manager
Hemant Balgobin. “And when something of that magnitude happens, that is also so
close to home and directly touches people’s lives here in Cayman, it is an all
hands on deck situation.”

Red Cross staff and volunteers
fielded phone calls and spent hundreds of man hours coordinating the
fundraising activities, providing information, assisting persons who needed to
trace their families in the affected area, and even came up with creative solutions
to further assist in the effort.

One such solution was to assist
those who wished to make non-monetary donations by turning their goods into
cash via the Thrift Shop.  For a period
of two weeks, all proceeds from the Red Cross’ Shop were donated to the Haiti
Appeal Fund.  Along with numerous funds
collected throughout the Island as well as partnerships with corporate donors,
schools, churches and other organisations these efforts raised over USD$500,000
for the most vulnerable in Haiti.

Meanwhile, Red Cross has continued
to carry on its programming within the community. The small tremors felt
throughout Cayman since the Haiti earthquake not only unsettled many residents
but also spotlighted the need for better family planning.  Again the Red Cross made its rounds on the
media circuit to remind the public of what to do before, during and after such
an event so that families could better prepare.

When Little Cayman was affected by
“not-officially a tornado/ not-quite a water spout” event the Red Cross was on
hand to assist where needed.  Volunteers
have continued to provide first aid and CPR coverage at an array of events.
They have also been busy managing disaster response stock and maintaining the
containers which house them throughout the three islands. 

This year also saw the launch of
the Red Cross University – a streamlining of Red Cross and other community
trainings aimed at further developing volunteers’ skills and knowledge base
both for use within and outside the organisation. 

“We have a tremendous number of
volunteers who have been with us for upwards of five years,” states Deputy
Director Carolina Ferreira. “What the RCU is hoping to do is to create a clear
path for growth and development so that volunteers can see how far they can go
and have something to strive toward. For example, those who may start with the
introductory disaster courses, Disaster 101 and Family Disaster Planning, can
move into intermediate courses, such as Logistics and Assessments, and if they
successfully complete all the pre-requisites they can be trained as National
Intervention Team members. The path is clear and the opportunities are there.
We are better investing in the people who give so much of themselves to the
community. It is a win-win all around,” she explains.

As active as the CIRC remains, it
has been tremendously impacted by the economic downturn. Not only has the
organisation had to cancel its annual dinner dance gala fundraiser for the past
two years, the Haiti appeal has created another obstacle for them to overcome. 

“There is no question that we are
incredibly grateful for the generosity of the Cayman public and corporations in
our Haiti Appeal efforts,” explains Branch Director Jondo Obi. “However, we are
finding that there was tremendous misconception in regards to where the money
went and who it actually helped.  One
hundred per cent of all the funds that were donated to the Haiti appeal via the
Cayman Islands Red Cross went to Haiti,” she explains. “What we are finding is
that funds, which would have otherwise been allocated for local programmes,
were redirected towards the Haiti appeal. 
This has left a tremendous shortfall within our budget and put the
organisation in a difficult situation.”

Difficult situations call for new
solutions and the CIRC hopes that it has found just that. As part of Red Cross
Month the CIRC will be partnering with local primary and middle schools to work
with students in years 2-6 via the launch of the Red, White & Do box.

Moving away from the well known
concept of begging money, the Red, White & Do Box challenges young people
to earn the money they will donate to the Red Cross by doing chores or
providing other services to their families and friends. Its aim is to teach
young people the importance of their contributions to the Red Cross as well as
the value of money (and the difference in earning it vs. simply asking). The
hope is that the experience will instil in them a sense of pride and plant the
seeds of volunteerism and an honourable work ethic, which they will take with
them throughout their lives.

The Red Cross will also be
launching a campaign aimed at educating the community on donating goods to the
Thrift Shop for resale. 

“Most people think of the Thrift
Shop simply as a store but they don’t realise the importance of the role that
it plays in the community,” explains Remy Imperial, Thrift Shop manager. “The
shop is a source of revenue for the organisation, which allows us to implement
our programmes within the community, but it is also a programme in and of
itself. We partner with organizations like DCFS, prison services, CICC, and
also assist other vulnerable individuals by providing needed items free of cost
to them.”

While donations are key to the
existence of the shop, not all items presently donated are suitable to be sold
or given away.  Thus came the idea for
the “Donate with Dignity” campaign, which will promote the donation of new or
gently used items to the shop. 

“The rule of thumb for donating
boils down to this: is it something that you would actually wear were it not
for a difference in size or style? If the answer is no because it is stained,
burned or ripped then it shouldn’t be donated. We must remember that those who
are clients or customers of the Thrift Shop may already be marginalised and it
is our duty to ensure that we protect their dignity. Putting stained, ripped,
and otherwise unsuitable items up for consumption sends a clear message to
those who shop with us, and that message would be contrary to our fundamental principles,”
she adds.

First Aid, CPR and AED courses will
continue to be offered throughout the month of May, as well as a full
lifeguarding course, which will take place from 17-22 May.

“It is rather rare that there are
spots available for this course, but we actually still have availability for
anyone who is seeking to become a certified lifeguard,” stated Peter Hughes, training
manager.  The CIRC will also be offering
recertification for basic water rescue and lifeguarding for those already certified
on 29 May.

“The opportunities are endless.
There is a tremendous drive for people to get involved and do something. All
Red Cross volunteers know that when you’re in the Red Cross you have something
to do every day,” Ms Ferreira adds.

For more information on
volunteering, donating, or getting involved in any trainings or projects, contact
the Cayman Islands Red Cross on 949-6785 ext. 26, 27, 30, 31 or 22, email [email protected] or log on to


Cayman Islands Red Cross Disaster Manager Hemant Balgobin offers directions to on-the-ground staff in Haiti.
Photo: Red Cross