British Red Cross volunteer Ben Moon is spending 10 weeks with the Paraguayan Red Cross, strengthening the organisation and help its volunteers and staff do more for people in crisis.

Ben, who normally uses his first aid and emergency response skills to help people in the UK, is one of nine volunteers from across Europe heading to the Paraguayan town of Encarnación as part of the Volunteers in Capacity Building Projects (VinCaB) scheme. Dozens of VinCaB volunteers from European Red Cross societies and other organisations are visiting countries across Latin America and the Balkans to work on humanitarian projects.

In Encarnación, their work includes setting up a group of Red Cross lifeguards in the town, teaching first aid and helping local organisations work together to deal with disasters and emergencies. Ben, an environmental consultant from Cardiff, has shared some highlights of the trip so far:

Keeping safe on the sand

We’ve been promoting beach safety in local schools. The beaches here were only built two years ago after the damming of the Parana River, which created higher and more stable water levels.  The beaches are extremely popular, but with no trained lifeguards and the local community’s lack of water safety awareness or swimming education, they are a major public health risk. There were five reported deaths in the first summer.

Our work has included a teacher and parent first aid training workshop. We gave an introduction to first aid basics and got all teachers and parents to take part in first aid circuit training. They learned about dealing with minor injuries including cuts, grazes, sprains and breaks, the recovery position, and CPR.

Taking the lead

We’re holding a leadership course for local Red Cross and fire brigade volunteers. The first weekend was a great success, with universal good feedback and several people saying how different this European approach is to other leadership courses they’ve experienced at work. Best of all, the volunteers were actively involved throughout and the majority of the ideas and work came from them. They showed lots of understanding and enthusiasm.

Pop star pals

We also ran first aid classes with students aged ten to 18 as part of a course introducing them to the Red Cross movement, giving them basic first aid skills and teaching them about beach and water safety. Every class asked the same question in the Q&A session at the end – being from Britain, did I personally know One Direction?