Category: Volunteering

Learning lessons from the Grenfell Tower fire

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Mike at Grenfell Tower

Mike at Grenfell Tower ©BRC

Last year was one of the most challenging times in the history of the British Red Cross.

In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire and terror attacks in London and Manchester, we responded on an unprecedented scale.

This included raising £28m for the people affected, sorting through 200 tonnes of donations and managing a 24-hour support line. Overall, we helped almost 2,300 people affected by these terrible tragedies.

From this, the Red Cross and other organisations that respond to emergencies have learned important lessons about how we support people in times of crisis. One of these is that all organisations involved in a crisis must work closely together.

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Royal Weddings, Winston Churchill and me

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A plate of cupcakes with brightly coloured icing and decorations, including a picture of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle for the royal wedding

© Sunlight Photography/istock

The British Red Cross has played a special part in many Royal Weddings. The celebrations for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are no exception. As we get ready for 19 May, peek down the aisle back to the 1960s and hear from the people who were there…

TV’s first Royal Wedding: 1960

The first Royal Wedding to be televised was in May 1960. More than 20 million people tuned in to watch the black and white images of Princess Margaret marrying Antony Armstrong-Jones.

The Red Cross’s Mrs S.H. McFadyen had a ringside seat in Westminster Abbey. She described the vivid colours of the ceremony for a Red Cross magazine.

“H.M. The Queen’s long dress was of vivid blue, that of the Queen Mother was gold lace with a mass of fawn ospreys on her hat.”

Princess Margaret “was in every meaning of the word a Fairy Tale bride, her dress so simple, and her veil off her face. The Duke of Edinburgh talked to her all the way up the aisle.”

Guests included Sir Winston Churchill, who “looked frail, but he was there.”

Mrs McFadyen also described the striking outfits on display in the abbey.

“Some of the hats of the guests had to be seen to be believed, and it was a wonderful sight to see the most gorgeous sari, from India, and the gay costumes worn by representatives of distant lands.”

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Cash grants after the hurricanes: food, clothes and hope for a mother and daughter

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Clair, who received a Red Cross cash grant after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, sits in a chair and smiles

Claire got a Red Cross cash grant after Hurricanes Irma and Maria damaged her mother’s home, ©British Red Cross

“My mum is 83 and has Alzheimer’s. And she’s not mobile. When the hurricane came she hid behind the fridge and we didn’t get to her until morning.”

Claire and her mum live in the beautiful British Virgin Islands.

Normally a Caribbean tourist destination, the islands were hit by three crises in 2017.

First there was major flooding in August.

Then Hurricane Irma, one of the strong hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, hit in September.

Hurricane Maria followed just 12 days later.

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When volunteers become friends: why helping at a Red Cross shop can be more than just a job

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Deborah Simpson-Boston stands with a wooden fence and blue sky behind her

Deborah Simpson-Boston, manager of the Red Cross shop in Shoreham-on-sea © British Red Cross

From mothers and sons to fashionistas – volunteering in a British Red Cross shop is something anyone can do.

Whether you have several afternoons a week to spare, or just a few hours at the weekend, we can use your help.

But for a volunteer and shop manager, working at one of our shops meant even more than just giving their time to a valuable cause.

Deborah Simpson-Boston is 44 and originally from Durham. She became a volunteer at the Red Cross shop in Shoreham-by-Sea in 2015 as a way of helping her manage stress and anxiety.

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“How a wrong number changed my life”: a disabled volunteer’s story

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Mark Belton, a disabled volunteer, wears a British Red Cross t-shirt and smiles

Mark Belton, Red Cross volunteer © British Red Cross

“I think back on how I felt six or seven years ago and so much has changed,” Mark Belton said.

Mark first noticed that his sight was getting worse in his teens. His mum, nan and sister all had an inherited eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa.

“By the age of 18 or 19 I knew I had it too.

“My eyesight was deteriorating,” Mark said.

“It was a real blow, it was half expected but it sort of knocks you back. I had just got my new job then as an upholsterer.”

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How to volunteer to help your community in an emergency

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Community reserve volunteers at a response exercise in Southampton - ©BritishRedCross/Andrew Hasson

Community reserve volunteers at a response exercise – ©BritishRedCross/Andrew Hasson

An exciting new campaign launches this week and we need your help.

The British Red Cross is aiming to recruit 10,000 volunteers across the UK who can help out when disaster strikes their local community.

The ‘community reserve volunteers’ will work together as a team during major emergencies, such as flooding.

They could also help out during other incidents such as a terror attack, or a major fire.

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Disabled and lonely? The Red Cross can help

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Sue Seers received support from the British Red Cross

Isabella is a life-line to Sue Seers. She’s not her carer, support worker, or even a family member – but a wheelchair.

For two years Sue was unable to leave her house due to deteriorating health. But then the British Red Cross helped her get a wheelchair and start a journey away from loneliness and social isolation.

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Connecting communities: meet two women on a mission

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Nazia providing support to an older woman

Back in December 2016, the British Red Cross in partnership with the Co-op, revealed epidemic levels of loneliness and social isolation in the UK.

Now we’ve started to roll out connecting communities: the name of our brand new services designed to help tackle these issues head on.

At the heart of these are an inspirational team of individuals, people like Vicky Day and Nazia Rehman.

Both these women know what it is like to be lonely and are on a mission to ensure others in a similar position get the help they need and deserve.

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