Category: UK

Post relating to the British Red Cross in the United Kingdom

Adam's story


Adam* was a university student in Sudan. The government arrested him when problems broke out in Darfur. He was accused of inciting fellow students. Adam was detained on two separate occasions and was tortured during his detention; he was kicked and beaten with iron poles, locked in a small room where burning material was thrown in to choke him, and tied upside-down if he did not give the answers his torturers wanted. When Adam was released, he was told to regularly report and sign in with the authorities, but he decided to flee the country.

Adam paid an agent to take him somewhere safe but he did not know where he was going. Adam claimed asylum in the UK in January 2008 and was refused asylum a year later in February 2009.

He now spends his time trying to search for food by visiting different people he knows. He has no income at all and has no regular source of food or shelter: “I eat once a day if friends can spare some food.”

He says he really wants to be able to support himself and not rely on handouts from other people.
“I feel really bad not having a job. I want to be independent and not depend on others’ kindness for food. I want to be able to support my family as well.”

Adam tries to occupy himself by going to language classes and reading at the library. He says that life in the UK is now similar to life in Sudan because in both places he was not able to support himself; in the UK he is not allowed to work and in Sudan he could not live openly because the authorities were looking for him. The situation has caused him severe depression.

The British Red Cross has been able to support Adam in a limited capacity. We are able to provide £10 food vouchers per week, and clothes and toiletries from our clothing project. Adam has been given advice on where he can access a homelessness project and receive hot food on a daily basis.

Part of a series of posts on the topic of destitution for Refugee Week.

* Names have been changed to protect peoples’ identities.

Michael's story


Michael* completed his university degree in economics before taking charge of a flourishing family business. When the conflict began, Michael and his family fled to their farm in Minova. Many civilians including Michael’s father and his son were killed in the fighting. A month later Michael was falsely arrested and jailed for four months without trial.

I was beaten constantly and violently throughout the day and night. Rebel guards even urinated on me after beating me. I was interviewed several times about my family and my link with the Mai-Mai militia. I was accused of funding the militia.”

Michael had never had any contact with the Mai-Mai militia and he had never been a political activist even as a student. As a result of the beatings Michael became very ill. He lost a testicle due to severe infection from an injury inflicted by the rebels.

A nurse helped him escape, by saying that he needed an operation. A priest then helped him get to Uganda. From Uganda he fled to the UK, where he claimed asylum in October 2003.

Michael’s asylum claim was refused in August 2004 and since then he has been destitute. Michael says he is surviving because of the generosity of people. He was once unable to get food for three days, and decided to walk into a supermarket. In desperation he spoke to the shop manager about his problem. The shop manager gave him some unsold fruit and bread.

He was attacked by some homeless people in a coach station. Michael has received treatment for severe depression. He has had thoughts about killing himself. He is shocked at the reception he has received in the UK.

The human right should be the first thinking for English people. I am really suffering.”

Michael came to the British Red Cross destitution clinic in Birmingham. We assist him with food vouchers, clothing vouchers, and travel expenses to attend medical appointments in London.

Part of a series of posts on the topic of destitution for Refugee Week.

* Names have been changed to protect peoples’ identities.

Big Red Cross Bus still pulling out all the stops


Last week I headed up to Manchester for the ultimate ride…albeit a stationary one.

I was visiting the Big Red Cross Bus which was stationed for the day in the city centre. While I was there I met some of our wonderful staff and volunteers, snapped up a bargain print dress, eyed up some Prada mules, munched a homemade muffin and more.

For the uninitiated we’ve taken a double decker and customised it to house an all-in-one mobile charity shop and volunteering hub. It’s travelling around Britain until 12 June, bringing the Red Cross to a city near you, as part of Volunteers’ Week.

When I arrived the bus was mobbed; dozens of people were milling around the racks of clothing on sale outside the bus from our shops. Nearby a shopper was having a go at dressing a dummy for the chance to win a professional photo shoot… with dazzling results.

Inside the bus, after grabbing a muffin a volunteer had baked,  I ran into Luiza, a local fashion student who had come to help out. Meanwhile, on the upstairs deck one of our volunteers was busy telling a potential new recruit about our many volunteering opportunities and encouraging her to help out in one of our nearby shops.

The woman wasn’t very confident about the prospect of manning a till, but the volunteer reassured her that there were  other things she could do instead, such as working behind the scenes sorting books and ticketing clothing.

By the end of the day, 24 new volunteers had signed up, sales of clothes, shoes, books and more had netted £240…and the bus hadn’t even moved.

There’s still time to catch the bus! Find out where it’s going next.

Volunteer to cure the back to work blues


Big Red Cross Bus in Bishop AucklandApologies for my silence, dear reader, I have been away on holiday and took a temporary blogging breather; not even I love the Red Cross enough to blog from a sunlounger.

Many people feel pretty gloomy coming back to work after a spell away but not me (apart from having to cycle home in torrential rain yesterday). I call it the ‘Red Cross effect’, where exposure to good works induces a feeling of perpetual wellbeing.  

I had only been back in the office five minutes on Tuesday when I heard about all the great stuff  I’d missed while I was away…

Thousands of parents had gone to the Baby Show in Birmingham on 21-23 May, with many getting a dose of our life-saving  children and baby first aid courses via demos from staff and volunteers.

I heard that Tesco has now raised more than £582,000 for the British Red Cross and DEC Haiti Earthquake Appeal.

And our first aid volunteers had kept revellers safe at the One Big Weekend event in Bangor on 22-23 May as well as runners at the Edinburgh marathon on 23 May.

I was also delighted to see our Volunteer’s Week Big Red Cross Bus had started its journey around the country.

How’s that for a busy week at work (for everyone else). It gave me a little glow to hear about it all. Of course, you don’t need to actually work here to enjoy the Red Cross effect and banish your post summer holiday back-to-work blues.

Why not become a volunteer?  Pay a visit to the British Red Cross bus (find out where it’s visiting) before 12 June, to discover the dozens of varied and flexible volunteering roles we offer. You never know, you might snap up a bargain designer bikini from the onboard shop for that next holiday while you’re there.

All aboard the Big Red Cross Bus!


What do you get when you cross a charity shop with a bus? (No, not a terrible accident scene with broken glass, well-thumbed books and woolly jumpers strewn all over the pavement.)

You get the Big Red Cross Bus – the world’s first mobile charity shop and volunteer information centre – which could be winging its way to you soon.

Apparently, the great British credit-crunched public is well and truly skint, and flocking to Red Cross shops in such great numbers that, frankly, we need more shop volunteers to cope with the human deluge.

But the dilemma was how to reach those hundreds of potential volunteers out there all across the country? The boffins at Red Cross HQ had a brainstorm. It went something like this: ‘How do we reach those hundreds of potential volunteers out there all across the country?’ ‘We could hire a bus and put a shop in it.’ ‘Alright then.’

(Our boffins work fast at the Red Cross.)

And thus was born the Big Red Cross Bus. It’ll be touring the country from 31 May to 12 June, taking in 12 locations along the way. Pop along for a browse and bargain-hunt – and please do bring along any goods you’d like to donate.

You can also try your hand at being a shop volunteer and, if you like it, sign up to join the world’s biggest and cuddliest humanitarian movement. Come on, hop on board. It’ll be the ride of your life!

Podcast: Cumbrian floods – six months on


Woman in front of map of flood-affected Cockermouth, CumbriaThe Cumbrian floods last November had a devastating effect on hundreds of lives. Six months on, three families recall their darkest hours and discuss how the Red Cross has been helping them ever since. Mother-of-two Lynne Swain, pensioners Mary and Harold Todhunter and local shop owner Catherine Bell share their stories.



Sponsored bean bath brings in the cash


When was the last time you spent an entire week in rollerskates, or bathed in baked beans, or walked 35 miles to your local pub? These are just a few of the dozens of imaginative sponsored events staff, volunteers and members of the public took on during Red Cross Appeal Week last week in the name of fundraising for our wonderful charity.

Staff member Victoria Wood-Matthews, from Bristol, spent an entire week in rollerskates, including a visit to her local polling station on the day of the general election. She even attempted to cycle in her skates but as you’d imagine, got in a bit of a tangle.

Debra Probert (pictured), manager of our Pobtypool shop in South Wales spent five hours in a tub of baked beans in the shop window, raising just short of £500.

Two intrepid members of staff from the Ipswich office walked a 35-mile detour to their local pub, raising over £500 so far.

Dress Code Red days took place nationwide. Check out photos from the events on Flickr.

Red Cross shops across Scotland were taken over for the day in Apprentice-style challenges. A team of novice fundraisers tried to raise as much money as possible by organising various events, raffles and activities.

And yours truly, with my colleague Mark Cox doubled our target and both climbed 200 flights of stairs of our London office in the Big Red Climb, raising a total of £881 so far.

Red Cross Appeal Week may be over for this year, but you can organise your own event or sign up to one of our sponsored events all year round for the Red Cross.