The Red Cross in Cayman runs four distinct programmes that respond to the needs of the Cayman Islands.
These are: disaster management, first aid, HIV/AIDS awareness and the thrift store.
A fifth element is its internal volunteer development programme, explained deputy director of the Red Cross in Cayman Carolina Ferreira.
Ms Ferreira also heads up the HIV/AIDS programme, which has developed over the years and is still developing.
In March 2003, the Cayman Islands Red Cross launched the “Together We Can” HIV peer education programme. The programme gives young people information about HIV and empowers them to pass that information on to their friends.
It was initially developed by the Jamaican and American Red Cross Societies in conjunction with the World Health Organisation.
In 2002, the programme was standardised by the International Federation of the Red Cross and the methodology was regionalised so that it could be used throughout the Caribbean. The Cayman Islands Red Cross adopted and launched the programme at the John Gray High School that year and since then has trained more than 250 peer educators.
Young people between the ages of 13 and 18 are trained as peer educators during a three-day session where they discuss the basics of HIV transmission, testing, negotiation skills, stigma and discrimination, and condom use.
Volunteers between the ages of 19 and 35 are trained as instructor trainers and national trainers to help train peer educators.
“This is our 10th year of the Together We Can programme,” Ms Ferreira said, adding that the Red Cross is currently looking to update the programme to embrace schoolchildren’s use of social media and to have different programmes for middle schools and high school.
“The reality is kids have so much access to much more information with sophisticated technology and apps nowadays,” said Ms Ferreira. “We need to be able to get somewhere in the vicinity of that.”
Currently the programme is available to Year 11 students in John Gray and Clifton Hunter high schools.
The Cayman Islands Red Cross also has its own HIV awareness-raising campaign, which uses T-shirts to spread a positive message.
Over the years, the Cayman Isalnds Red Cross has launched five HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns – None but ourselves can fee our minds; Nobody has the truth written on their face; Protect yourself. Use a condom; HIV+… until proven negative; Save sex: and “Every ten seconds”.
The Caribbean has the second highest rate of prevalence of HIV and AIDS outside of sub-Saharan Africa.
The Cayman Islands Red Cross disaster management programme includes two elements – disaster preparedness and disaster response.
Before a disaster happens, the Red Cross prepares the community by educating them in the types of disasters they may encounter, from hurricanes and flooding to fires and crime.
Trained volunteers disseminate disaster management information to the community through individual and community level assessments, offering assistance in creating family disaster plans, hosting community informational sessions and making radio and television appearances.
Grand Cayman has a container project that provide one shipping container of essential supplies to each of the seven districts, as well as to Cayman Brac and to Little Cayman, so aid can be provided quickly.
The container project is an integral part of the Red Cross’ Disaster Management programme as containers are stocked and strategically placed throughout Grand Cayman and Sister Islands to assist each community in the event of a national and localised disaster. Containers are equipped with hygiene kits, flashlights, tarpaulin, shovels, clean-up kits, family kits, plastic sheeting and more.
The Red Cross also has a mobile disaster response unit, which works from the heart of a disaster zone.
When disaster strikes, the Red Cross meets the immediate needs of the people and communities affected by providing shelter and health services to the vulnerable. Once the danger is over, they help people recover.
Volunteers are trained in all areas of disaster services, including community disaster education, disaster preparedness and response.
Volunteers in disaster management are trained in CPR and first aid and the use of automatic external defibrillators, as well as pre- and post-disaster assessments, logistics, shelter management, restoring family links and psychological support.
The Red Cross also manages storage facilities where shelter kits are kept. Supplies are distributed to British navy ships patrolling the region during hurricane season.
The Cayman Islands Red Cross has been teaching people how to save lives through its comprehensive first aid training programme since its inception.
Its services include: First aid training in cardio pulmonary resuscitation, known as CPR; advanced training in automated external defibrillators; first aid services at community events, such as marathons and walk-a-thons; and first aid volunteers help staff the Red Cross shelter at our headquarters as well as the national shelters across the islands.
According to the first aid programme leader Peter Hughes, the Red Cross trains between 1,000 and 1,200 people in first aid each year. “Even taking into account rollover, in terms of size of our population, in the last five years, we’ve trained about 10 per cent of the population. When you put that into perspective, campared to the Red Cross community that would do training in England or the United States, it is quite good,” said Mr. Hughes.
The Red Cross has a large training room in which to carry out its first aid courses, but will also bring the training to people’s offices, if businesses have a large enough room to facilitate it.
As well as providing courses in first aid and CPR, volunteers can also take a course in become a first aid instructor. The Red Cross also offers water safety and life guarding training for businesses in the watersports and hospitality industries.
Trained volunteers are on duty during large public events like the Cayman Islands Marathon and the Flowers Sea Swim and East End Surf Challenge.
Funds raised by the first aid, water safety and lifeguard training courses are used for the training of volunteers, purchasing equipment, supporting community events and assisting the organisation.
The Red Cross Thrift Store is an Aladdin’s Cave of goodies and smart shoppers know that Tuesday is the day when some of the best bargains are up for grabs.
Remy Imperial, who runs the store, explained that as many donations are made or sorted over the weekend and since the store is closed on Mondays, by opening time of 9am on Tuesday mornings, there’s usually a queue forming outside the door.
The store sell clothes, furniture, appliances, books and other household items at very discounted prices, all donated from individuals or from other shops and hotels.
The thrift stop is located at the Red Cross headquarters building on Thomas Russell Way in George Town.
Every Saturday, there is a $1 bargain sale outside the store and once a month the Thrift Store takes to the roads and brings its Deals on Wheels service to a different district each month.
“We take items from the shop to the districts in a trailer and set up a table outside,” explained Ms Imperial. “People in the districts say they’d love to see us there every Saturday.”
The store also has a mobile book service which it takes to various sites and offers $2 hard covers and $1 and 50-cent paperbacks. All children’s books cost 50 cents. Books are also available at the store.
The Thrift Store also provides free items for people in need, who are referred to the Red Cross by the Department of Children and Family Services, Immigration Detention Centre, Immigration Probation Centre, the Crisis Centre and others.
Ms Imperial said the Red Cross also assesses individual cases.
The Thrift Store depends on donations from the public, so those thinking of having a garage sale, or who need to offload furniture or other items if they are leaving the island or renovating their homes, should consider donating items to the Thrift Store. Its volunteers will even pick up items from homes.
The shop is staffed by a team of volunteers who pick up items, sort through them, act as cashiers and help out shoppers.
To Red Cross Thrift Store is open Tuesday to Friday from 9am to 2pm and 5pm to 7pm and on Saturdays from 7.30am to 1.30pm. To volunteer for any of these programmes, contact the Cayman Islands Red Cross on 949-6785.