The Cayman Islands Red Cross, an Overseas Branch of the British Red Cross, was founded in 1961 by Mrs. Ethel Cook-Bodden.
Mrs. Ethel, who was born and raised in Devon, England, came to the Cayman Islands in the early 1940s, with her second husband, Caymanian born Eric Cook Bodden.
Due to her husband’s serious illness, he was admitted at the Cayman Hospital for some time. Mrs. Ethel would visit him three to four times a day to bring him food that the hospital was unable to supply. The appalling conditions of the hospital were immediately evident to her: “no food for the patients as there was only a derelict cooker, no kitchen equipment, no refrigerator, no crockery to speak of, no medical books and truly dreadful sanitary arrangements”.
After his passing, Mrs. Ethel devoted herself to voluntary work, and with the assistance of the Commissioner’s wife, Mrs. Anne Gerrard, she organised the local Red Cross (then known as the Committee of the British Red Cross) and started fundraising for the hospital.
From their fundraising efforts they were able to provide the hospital with a new kitchen, proper stove, buckets, brooms, saucepans, pails and crockery. Furthermore, the fund became responsible for hiring kitchen staff and checking on the state of sanitation in the kitchen.
The Committee’s other concerns included helping the small population to prepare for the annual hurricane season.
Their duties expanded from building a small inventory of disaster supplies to assisting with the care of the patients in the hospital, and fundraising for better health care facilities.
The Cayman Islands Red Cross today
The Cayman Islands Red Cross has strengthened the foundations built by those pioneering volunteers and today has branch status, allowing it more autonomy to evolve to meet the changing needs of the most vulnerable in the country.
It has also expanded into the Sister Islands when, in 2005, it gained the Cayman Brac and Little Cayman Chapter of the CIRC.
The five major programmes of the Cayman Islands Red Cross are Disaster Management, HIV & AIDS education, First AID/ CPR /AED and Water Rescue Training, the Thrift Shop and
Volunteer Training and Development.
The DM programme is split in two parts: Disaster Preparedness and Disaster Response. Disaster Preparedness focuses on raising the awareness and education of the community of the different types of disasters they may encounter while living in the Cayman Islands, from hurricanes and flooding, to earthquakes, fires and crime.
Disaster Response, as the name implies, focuses on assisting the members of the community who were affected by a disaster. Whether it is helping one family that was affected by a localised house fire or an entire nation recovering from a Category 5 hurricane, the DR programme is there to ensure that adequate help is available to the most vulnerable in our community.
Volunteers for the disaster programme are trained in CPR/First Aid/AED, as well as pre- and post-disaster assessments, logistics, communications, shelter management, restoring family links and psychological support. In 2009, the CIRC trained its first group of National Intervention Team members, an intensive regional Red Cross training programme, which offers more in depth information and skills to the most active and keen disaster management volunteers.
For more information:
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