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.

“Small acts of kindness, and coming together as a team, can make a huge difference,” said Simon Lewis, head of crisis response for the British Red Cross.

“We would only call upon people at times of major crisis, which hopefully won’t happen often, but when it does, and extra help is needed, people will have the opportunity to do small things that make a big difference.”

So far, more than 340 people have already signed-up to help their local communities. Among them is Taran Vernon, from Farnham.

The 45-year-old was caught up in the 2015 Nepal earthquake while taking part in a charity hike at Everest.

“You could actually see the bit of mountain right in front of us shaking – left, right, left, right. Within a few seconds of the earthquake starting we heard a rumble to our left as an avalanche of rubble came through,” she recalled.

Taran Vernon - ©BritishRedCross/Andrew Hasson

Taran Vernon – ©BritishRedCross/Andrew Hasson

Since returning to the UK, Taran has taken part in fundraising activities for Nepal and said that her experiences there motivated her decision to sign-up as a community reserve volunteer.

“That’s why I connected with this so much,” she explained. “It’s something that definitely hit a nerve. If something like this happened in my community, I’d want to be able to do something to help.”

Babs and George Biddle, from Southampton, have also registered as community reserve volunteers after taking part in a pilot project last year.

“We’ve been very lucky with our lives and we want to give back to other people. We made a good living, paid the mortgage and we’re both in good health,” explained Babs, 65.

George, a retired PE teacher, added that he found the registration process simple and thinks the general public will back the scheme.

“Sometimes these online processes can take ages and you think – I’m going to be forever here – but this was all fine,” said the 77-year-old.

“I expect you’ll be surprised and overwhelmed by the response, when you invite the general public to give their support.

“We have a reputation in the 21st century for being mean and self-centred, but when you actually ask people to help you get the opposite.”

Babs and George Biddle - ©BritishRedCross/Andrew Hasson

Babs and George Biddle – ©BritishRedCross/Andrew Hasson

The volunteer role requires no long-term commitment or extensive training. People would be called out by text message in the event of a major emergency in their local area.

Volunteers would carry out practical tasks, such as filling sandbags, preparing equipment, or sorting food.

The aim is to recruit volunteers over the next two years, targeting areas that are prone to flooding and weather-related emergencies first.

Michael Asante - ©BritishRedCross/Andrew Hasson

Michael Asante – ©BritishRedCross/Andrew Hasson

Michael Asante, a student from Winchester, has also signed-up as a community reserve volunteer.

“I liked the idea of helping people and this is something that’s very relevant to what I want to do eventually, as I want to go into policing,” said the 20-year-old.

“I think there’s a real satisfaction that comes from helping others, too.”