Category: UK

Post relating to the British Red Cross in the United Kingdom

Skydive, climb Everest…make a will

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skydiversBefore that unavoidable encounter with the grim reaper, it’s good to have crossed everything off your life ‘to do’ list – the skydiving, travelling, making a million, saving the world etc. But many people fail to get round to that all-important but rather less exciting goal: making a will.

Yet shouldn’t looking after the people you care about and making things easier for them after you’ve fallen off your proverbial perch, be a priority? If you’ve been putting off this all-important task, now’s the time to get it done,  save money and help the British Red Cross in the process.

This November is ‘National Make a Will Month’, when Will Aid works with solicitors to offer their will-writing services for a donation instead of their usual fee. These donations, which amounted to £1.25m last year, are then split between nine charities including the British Red Cross.

It’s an extremely popular scheme, so make sure you find a local Will Aid solicitor now to secure an appointment in November. You can download and complete a will planner here, ahead of your visit.

Of course, we’d be delighted if you ended up leaving us a gift in your will; legacy fundraising – leaving a gift to charity in your will – is vital for the Red Cross, and last year amounted to 25% of our income from supporters.

10 things you didn't know about the Red Cross

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1. During the Second World War, as well as sending food parcels, we sent artificial limbs to wing commander Douglas Bader in a parcel while he was a prisoner of war. We also sent more than 14,000 musical instruments to POWs, resulting in orchestras at 100 camps. Books were also provided for recreational and study purposes.

2. When celebrity supporter Stephen Fry tweeted about our Pakistan Floods Appeal recently, he helped us reach 2.5 million people on Twitter.

3. We have one web-footed volunteer – a dog called Loki. The Newfoundland is a member of the water rescue team in Northern Scotland and prized for his life-saving prowess in water, in case of  floods.

4. Agatha Christie was a voluntary aid detachment for the Red Cross during the First World War  and Second World War.

5. As well as donations to our emergency appeals, we receive some more unusual things in the post from the public, such as a prosthetic leg..and tea bags.

6. Our fourth most profitable charity shop – taking nearly £100,000 profit already this year – is situated in a sunken car park, off the beaten track, in Banchory, Scotland.

7. Percy Lane Oliver, a British Red Cross volunteer, set up the UK’s first blood collection service in 1921. The Red Cross supported the NHS with blood transfusion until 1987.

8. Rudyard Kipling helped with our war library, which supplied free books and magazines to sick and wounded soldiers and sailors in the UK and abroad during the First World War.

9. The Red Cross worked with the Department of health to produce dressings made of moss throughout the Second World War. There was substantial demand from hospitals which led to a huge saving in the use of cotton wool. The dressings were made by Red Cross work parties throughout Scotland. By June 1945, there were sufficient stocks. During the war 83,616 dressings were dispatched from Ayrshire, 35,475 from the Glasgow regional centre, and 35 sacks and 2037 dressings from Lanarkshire.

10. It may only be October, but our Christmas cards are already available  online.

How would Britain cope with an earthquake?

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earthquake rubble and Red Cross personnelUnlike poor Pakistan and Haiti, the locations of the world’s biggest recent disasters, our lives are pretty safe in Britain, by comparison.

Our extremes of weather and natural disasters pale when compared to those of many less fortunate countries around the world, whose inhabitants tend to be much less able to cope when these extreme events  strike.

Luckily, the Red Cross is well practised in emergency response both in the UK and overseas, and helps countless people in crisis each year.

It was shocking to read in newspapers recently however, that normally relatively cosy Britain, is at risk of being hit by a devastating earthquake, according to a leading geologist. ‘This may happen in London – and we’re not ready’, screamed the Independent headline about it. It was an interesting point.

While the Red Cross is not in the business of predicting whether such a disaster would be likely, we are concerned with the UK’s ability to respond effectively in any emergency. That’s why we recently commissioned a report exploring the legal and operational implications for the UK, should a large-scale event happen and we needed help in the shape of international relief from abroad.

One recommendation the report makes is for the government to clarify the different roles of various departments should major disaster strike. While the Cabinet Office would arguably take the lead, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office might also be involved through our network of embassies and consulates abroad.

The key to a coordinated, smooth response is preparation. And that’s where fake earthquakes can also come in handy.

Image © Alessandra di Meo/Italian Red Cross

Surviving the Great North Run

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Heron and family waiting for the busThe knees have stopped creaking and I’m able to rise from a chair without wincing, but the tremendous sense of satisfaction remains. And all this because I completed the Great North Run last Sunday.

What a day!

I had loaded up on carbs on Saturday and drunk a LOT of water, so woke up feeling ready for action on Sunday morning despite the 5.30am start and drizzling rain.

After a quick diversion for a bacon buttie, six of us made our way to the start. Daphne, being the super fit one of the group, left the rest of us to join the more professional runners in the orange zone, just behind the elite men – including the lovely Haile Gabreselassie, who went on to win.

The rest of us made our way to the pink zone, the spot for people who expected to finish it in three hours or longer. That was us! We were a pretty motley crew – Dad had forgotten to cut his hair the day before to get the extra aerodynamic support he had been hoping for; Mum had decided to wear a skiing sock on her head to keep the rain off; my brother Guy was sporting some very fetching leggings under a pair of baggy shorts; and his girlfriend, Anneke, had forgotten to pack a sports bra. Thankfully I had thought about my ‘outfit’ and was looking very professional in my Red Cross running vest.

We did some warm-ups with a Mr. Motivator-character, listened to Ant and Dec tell us how wonderful we all were, and then we were off!

Guy, Anneke and I were running together and we set off at a steady trot. None of us had ever done anything like this before. The crowds cheering us on really got the adrenaline going, and we kept forcing ourselves to slow down to make sure we didn’t overdo it in the first mile.

Once we were over the Tyne Bridge we settled in and tackled our first hill. Not feeling too bad. In fact, everything felt pretty good until about mile eight when I got a wicked stitch. I tried all the tricks I knew to get rid of it – clenching and unclenching fists, deep breathing – nothing worked. I had to get rid of it, so I slowed to a walk. Guy and Anneke continued and I fell behind. It didn’t take long for the stitch to disappear so pretty soon as I was back running, although now on my own.

There were some pretty interesting outfits around – I think the weirdest had to be a Paddington bear, running flanked by men and women in bunny outfits. And then there were the bands that played fantastic music along every mile – they really pepped up tired legs. But most of all I remember the people – lovely, lovely people, urging each other on, all raising money for their chosen story, many with heart wrenching stories to tell.

On three occasions, the other runners and I had to move aside as a British Red Cross ambulance came through to help injured runners. More than 450 Red Cross volunteers were on first aid duty at the event and it just re-emphasised for me why I feel so loyal to the Red Cross – always there, responding in a crisis, whether that be in Gateshead on 19 September or in Haiti, Niger, Bangladesh or anywhere else.

As the marker for mile 12 came in to view, the heavens opened, and as I came over the last hill on to the last flat stretch along the coastline of South Shields, it was spitting rain in my face the whole way. Teeth gritted, I pressed on.

I finally crossed the finish line in two hours and 36 minutes.

I was pretty happy with that – not too bad for a novice runner that didn’t once keep to her training schedule and had had the same trainers for the last ten years!

Anneke finished it in 2:29, Guy in 2:31, Mum and Dad in 3:55, and Daphne in an amazing 1:54. We all met up at the Red Cross tent afterwards, sipping cups of tea and eating malt loaf, sharing stories on the people we’d met and the tough times we’d faced, and all agreeing what a fabulous day it had been.

I had a wonderful massage from the physios at the Red Cross tent, and then we all headed off to the cars where we cracked open the bubbly and scoffed cake.

Anyone thinking about doing the Great North Run and asking my advice, I say “go for it”. It was a fantastic feeling and a tremendous sense of accomplishment, not only because I had managed to get round 13.1 miles but also because of the money I raised for the British Red Cross.

To borrow the words of Bill Bryson, an honorary northerner, “Take my car. It’s wonderful.”

It’s not too late to sponsor Heron if you’d like to recognise her efforts.

Search for and sign up to other Red Cross running events

Podcast: losing everything in a house fire

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A man stands in front of a fire and emergency support service vehicleMike Ward is used to strangers depending on him after they’ve lost everything in a house fire. As a Red Cross fire and emergency support service volunteer, he’s on call to turn up at fires and look after displaced families while firefighters battle the flames.

But when he and his wife returned home one day to find their own home gutted, he learned first-hand how important that support is.

Listen to him tell his story.

[audio:http://www.blogs.redcross.org.uk.gridhosted.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Fess.mp3|titles=Mike Ward (FESS) – Losing everything in a house fire]

Read transcript below.

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Start with a load of old pants

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pants drying on a clotheslineIs your wardrobe looking a bit tired? Do you feel guilty about getting rid of all those unworn items of clothing languishing in your wardrobe?

Fear not. Thanks to the British Red Cross and ‘upcycling’ experts you can learn all you need to know to transform your old clobber, make cool new stuff out of odds and ends and generally become a fashion forward craft queen – or king.

Simply pay a visit to the Start Garden Party to Make a Difference at Clarence House where we’ll have a stand, from tomorrow until 19 September. The garden party is part of the Prince of Wales’ Start initiative.

As well as learning about what we do (I’ll be there all day on Thursday – come and say hi), you’ll be able to attend one of our 25 FREE ‘upcycling’ workshops; we’ve teamed up with top upcycling experts Orsola de Castro, Junky Styling and others to revolutionise your wardrobe (and help save the planet).

At the workshops we’ll show you how to do things like: transform an old t-shirt into a shopping bag, make jewellery out of jetsam and junk, purses from old fire hoses and yes, how to ‘pimp yo pants’. Needless to say, this workshop brings new meaning to the phrase ‘a load of old pants’. But in a good way.

It’s all in the spirit of sustainability and fun and a reminder of how important it is to reuse, restyle and recycle.

Buy your tickets (£15 adults, £7.50 children) to the event from Ticketmaster. If you can’t make it to the event, why not at least donate your unwanted clutter to your local Red Cross charity shop.

What we did during the Blitz

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Between 7 September 1940 and May 1941, thousands of civilians across Britain were killed during bombings and over a million houses destroyed or damaged in London alone.

Our volunteers played a vital role in supporting the emergency services and helping their communities survive.

Here are some of our favourite images of that time.

Find out more about our work in the Blitz on our website.

Start to de-clutter in September

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According to some shocking statistics I’ve discovered online, average UK consumers send 30kg of clothing and textiles per head to landfill every year. And apparently, in the United States, an average piece of clothing is only worn six times before being discarded. Talk about wardrobe malfunction…on a massive scale.

Charities like the Red Cross play a vital part in lightening our collective load of waste, and damage to the environment by recycling our unwanted stuff through their shops. After all, one person’s scuffed old shoes are another’s retro cool.

All September, coinciding with the Prince of Wales’ Start initiative, which the Red Cross supports,  we’re encouraging people to have a good old clear out and to start to donate to our shops, if you haven’t already. I’ve already got five huge bags of stuff I don’t want anymore ready for my local Red Cross shop, and freed up loads of space in my cramped flat in the process.

As well as offloading a bag of unwanted clothes and books for example, you could also contact your nearest Red Cross shop about arranging a house clearance, or arrange a collection (if available in your area) of a particularly large item; we recently received a yacht as a donation which raised a whopping £9,650 for the Red Cross at auction.

So by donating your unwanted stuff, you’re not only helping the planet but also helping us fundraise to help people in crisis.

Why not find out where your nearest shop is and get de-cluttering.