Category: UK

Post relating to the British Red Cross in the United Kingdom

Win free Christmas cards!


snowmanAre you getting stressed with festive fever already creeping across the nation in all its gaudy glory? If so, we’re here to help by offering you the chance to cross one thing off your Christmas to do list.

We have five packs of ten Christmas cards from our online shop up for grabs for five lucky winners. All you have to do to enter and be in with the chance of bagging one is correctly answer the following five questions (some of the answers can be found on our website):

The Quiz

1) Who will be our special celebrity guest at our London Christmas fair on 1 December?

a) Simon Cowell
b) Wayne Sleep
c) Tom Jones

2) How many people per week are our logistics specialists helping receive relief items and food in Pakistan ?

a) over 25,000
b) over 90, 000
c) over 120,000

3) Which of the following services do our volunteers provide?

a) help with Christmas present-wrapping
b) emergency turkey basting
c) emotional support in a crisis (including cups of tea)

4) How many people ran for us in this year’s Great North Run?

a) less than hundred
b) around 200
c) more than 300

5) If your child chokes on a roast potato, which first aid technique should you employ?

a) Hang them upside down by their feet and gently shake
b) Put your fingers in their mouth
c) Give them back blows between the shoulder blades

To enter, you can either email me ( or tweet the answer to us by clicking the tweet button at the top of this post and adding the answers into the box. We will select the winners at random at 3 p.m on Friday 22 October.

Good luck!

Yesterday, I pulled a dying man from a car


This is a guest post by Matt Edmundson, a Red Cross volunteer . A longer version can be found on Matt’s blog.

This blog is probably more for my benefit than anything else. According to psychologists, writing about an event is better than talking about it, so this is my therapy.

I pulled a dying man from his car and tried to revive him with CPR. After a total of 30 minutes advanced life support, the on-scene doctor called it. He died on scene, and was 86 years old.

Looking back on the whole event, I have a mixture of thoughts and feelings. My prayers are with the family (his wife was also in the accident but wasn’t too serious) and the other driver (again, not too serious). Two families now have to deal with some significant pain, grief, guilt and loss all from an event that happened in the blink of an eye. I feel for them, I really do.

I wished I could have saved that man (as I am sure all the team that arrived and helped do). Unfortunately, it was not like ER or Mission Impossible where a bang on the chest or a few breaths through the face mask brings him back. It was real life and, on this occasion, he died.

I also feel a sense of pride in what I did. Some have called me a ‘hero’. I am not sure that I fit that description at all. I don’t feel like one. But I do feel proud, both of what I did, but also the team that assembled on site and the willingness of people to get involved.

Here’s what happened: last Monday, I was driving home near Formby when the traffic started to congest, and I quickly saw the reason why – there had been an accident involving two cars. A few years ago, I would have done what most other drivers were doing at that stage; I would have slowed and had a look but kept driving as I wouldn’t have been any help to anyone.

This time was different though. I am a volunteer with the British Red Cross and have been for almost two years. I wanted to learn first aid because I knew that, as a parent, my first aid skills were practically non-existent – so I have spent the last two years learning first aid (and emergency first aid) through the fantastic guys at the Red Cross who provide immense training, often at their own personal cost.

I pulled alongside the accident and saw people on their phones, but no ambulance as of yet. I stopped my car and went over to see the driver who was being looked after by an off-duty police lady. The passenger in the car was his wife. She was being looked after by a passer-by and was conscious at least; the driver wasn’t. He was the most critical so I focused on him. At the same time, a nurse arrived who was on a passing bus. She worked in A&E.

First, I asked a (very strong-looking) bystander to help by holding the gentleman’s head as still as possible. The police lady had the signs of a weak pulse. I checked his chest, he was not breathing. After looking at other possibilities, we made the decision to take him out of the car (something you don’t do if a casualty is breathing) and start CPR. The ambulance would be several minutes before arriving on scene.

The bystander kept the man’s head supported, and I pulled him out of the car with the help of the nurse and police lady. At this point, no one cared about titles or rank, we just wanted to help this guy.

The nurse started compressions, and I had the head-end with the face mask doing the rescue breaths. Complete strangers were working a team, and communication was clear and effective. No one in the team panicked, we were calm and doing well. It is not what I expected. We continued CPR. The paramedics arrived and we all carried on, still working as a team – but the team was bigger now and we had the right equipment.

Some anaesthetists were on their way home had also stopped. They joined the ever-growing team of medical professionals, St John’s Ambulance and Red Cross volunteers. I’ve no doubt that the gentleman had the best medical care around him at this point. I had stopped the rescue breaths and breathing was now done with a resus-bag. I went to check on the passenger.

She had concussion and was very dazed. She was being looked after by someone I later learned is also a Red Cross volunteer, Paul, who had just moved to the area. The fireman gave me a collar and I put it on the lady whilst Paul explained what was happening. We then lifted her out of the car and on to a spinal board. She was taken to the ambulance and I went back to help with the driver.

The CPR carried on for another 15 minutes. The doctor was on scene, and they did all they could. But eventually – it was called. The doctor, after consulting with all the other medics, marked the time of death at 16:50. The CPR stopped, he had died a while ago and we couldn’t bring him back. The eyes were closed and I helped lift him onto the stretcher and we put a blanket over him. We then got him on to the ambulance.

It was over.

The air ambulance had also arrived at some point during these events. There were fire trucks, police and ambulances everywhere. The road was closed and I stood there in the middle of the scene just looking at the extent of what was happening. It was amazingly calm, despite all the people, and for the first time I stood in the middle of the collective efforts of our emergency services. I couldn’t have been prouder of what they were doing. They are all amazing people.

On the way home, I thought about the whole event. I was pleased with what I had done, and what we had done. I didn’t come away with any regrets about the care we gave that man. I called my first aid trainer, told him what had happened and thanked him for all his efforts in training me. He should take credit for that.

Who are the heroes?

I think the emergency services are heroes, they put themselves into these situations time and again to help us. They are amazing and do a fantastic job. I think the police woman was a hero, the lady that was comforting the passenger was a hero, the A&E nurse who jumped of a bus was a hero, the by-stander who helped was a hero, the people that called the ambulance were heroes. They all played their part to the best of their ability and were willing to help and get involved.

For me that makes them amazing people who can feel pleased with what they did, despite the outcome. Beyond that, there are the first aid trainers that helped me know what to do in situations like this and the supporters who support the British Red Cross to make that possible.

I love the Red Cross strategy of resourcing everyone so that they know what to do in a crisis. Can I encourage you to think about supporting or getting involved with the Red Cross? Next time you could be driving by. Would you keep driving, or would you stop, get involved and make a difference? For me, that is what a hero does.

In the news this week


Starting today, we’ll be doing a weekly roundup of some of the headlines that have caught our attention over the past 7 days. They all relate to our core areas of work – emergency response, first aid, refugee services, volunteering, and resilience – but they don’t necessarily reflect our own views on the subjects covered.

Feel free to leave your own thoughts on these topics in the comments.

Pakistan flood damage at $9.5 bln

“Pakistan’s recent floods inflicted $9.5 billion in damage to property, crops and infrastructure, according to an Asian Development Bank and World Bank assessment, Finance Ministry officials said on Wednesday.”

Senegal takes in Haitian student refugees

“It is one of Africa’s poorest countries, with simmering discontent over power cuts and unemployment with nearly half the population living in poverty. But Senegal has made good on a promise to give free homes and education to a group of Haitian students who lost everything in January’s devastating earthquake.”

Global hunger index: see how the world compares

“Is global hunger getting worse? According to the 2010 Global Hunger Index (GHI), published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in many countries nothing has changed over the last decade.”

7/7 bombs acts of ‘merciless savagery’, inquests told

“The 52 victims of the 7 July 2005 bombings were “murdered” in acts of “merciless savagery”, the inquests into their deaths has heard.”

Child asylum-seekers targeted in Home Office budget cuts

“Thousands of child asylum-seekers are to be removed from Britain under savage budget cuts being drawn up by the Home Office ahead of this week’s comprehensive spending review.”

We will need ‘2 Earths’ to sustain our lifestyle

“Our take up of food, land, natural minerals and animals has doubled in under 50 years, says new research.”

International Day for Disaster Reduction 2010

“This year a number of major disasters have captivated the attention of the public and media: the January earthquake in Haiti, the massive earthquake in Chile one month later, the summer heatwave and wildfires in Russia and months of continued flooding in Pakistan.”

The British Red Cross is neither responsible for, nor endorses, the content of external websites.

Our fundraising swimmers go that extra mile


Mel ChamberlainMel Chamberlain (right), a Red Cross volunteer from Shrewsbury, is the first to admit swimming is not his strong point. But that didn’t stop him plunging into the Severn to complete the Severn Mile Open Water Swim.

Yes, our volunteers do like to make a splash when it comes to fundraising. Despite not having swum since last November, Mel managed the challenge in 41 minutes, to raise money for the local Red Cross young carers support service he volunteers for.

Not content with swimming one mile, another volunteer, David Taylor from South Cumbria, has splashed through ten one-mile swims of Cumbrian Lakes. As you do. He emerged triumphant, but rather tired, from the waters of Lake Windermere – his tenth lake – on 5 September.

David TaylorDavid (right), who has volunteered for the Red Cross for the past 17 years,  has so far raised over £1,500 for emergency response equipment through his swims,  for use throughout Cumbria.

The Red Cross is an integral part of  emergency response in Cumbria. Volunteers have supported the statutory services in responding to the Cumbria floods last year, the Keswick School bus crash and the west Cumbria shootings.

“I’m very proud to be part of the emergency service team and when I volunteered during the floods last year, I could see that when the statutory services need help, they often turn to the British Red Cross,” said David.

Why not go that extra mile to help the Red Cross. Dive into one of our many  fundraising events.

Should charities be ranked?


Do you think the Red Cross is a worthwhile cause? Should charities like the Red Cross be ranked according to their benefit to society? This was the controversial question posed by a leading advisor to some of Britain’s philanthropists recently who believes there should be a charity ‘league table’.

How this would be decided and by whom is up for debate. It’s difficult to imagine how this could possibly work in practice. After all how do you measure worthiness and isn’t it a subjective thing anyway?

Many people who give to charity are motivated by feeling an emotional affinity with the charities they support, or choose to support particular ones because they have directly benefited from them, so would they want or use this kind of information anyway?

If you or someone in your family suffered from cancer, you’d probably support cancer charities. Or – as is often the case at the Red Cross – you might have an instinctive response to a disaster like the recent Pakistan floods and be prompted to donate.

Equally, if your friend or a relative is taking on a fundraising event such as the London Marathon, you’ll happily fork out and trust that they are doing whatever it is for a worthwhile cause.

Eighty four per cent of our regular givers are happy for the Red Cross to decide where to spend their gift, which indicates a high level of trust. And maybe it’s more about building trust so that whichever charity people or organisations donate to, they feel certain their money will be used wisely. Sadly some – Bono’s One to name a recent case – come under fire for misusing or wasting funds.

That’s why we all need to strive for clarity, accountability and transparency. Read more about how the Red Cross uses its funds on our website. You can also see a summary of the income and expenditure of every registered charity in England and Wales, on the Charity Commission’s website.

But whether you decide to support us, cancer charities or donkey sanctuaries, surely that shouldn’t be determined by a definitive, moral chart but by personal preference.

What does the Big Society mean?


Guest post by Margaret Lally, Director of UK Operations for the British Red Cross

It took centre stage at the Conservative party conference this weekend and provided the focus of the Lords debate on Tuesday. But voluntary organisations at the vanguard of what is potentially one of the biggest ideas of our time continue to ask, ‘what does the Big Society mean?’

The British Red Cross could be seen as the ultimate supporter of a ‘Big Society’.  As part of the world’s largest volunteer organisation we have long recognised the power of local communities to provide support to those in need.

But the concept is ambiguous. Will it require voluntary organisations to drastically scale up their provision of services without the funding to do so? Does putting power in the hands of local communities risk an uneven distribution of service provision across the country? And is there a danger of blurring the distinction between civil society and statutory provision?

Ultimately, we cannot ignore the fact that the Big Society could be a way of using the voluntary sector as a vehicle to reduce government’s own commitments to safeguarding society’s most vulnerable.

Surprisingly there has been little reference to the Big Society in the provision of social care.  However, there is no doubt that meeting the care needs of the population is one of the biggest challenges facing policy-makers today.  In England, there are over 15 million people living with long-term care conditions.  With an aging population alongside a very limited pot of resources, this raises some difficult questions.

However, within social care, much of the Big Society rhetoric is already alive. Family and friends already take on a huge unpaid caring responsibility. Volunteering participation is high albeit not increasing in huge numbers. A recent survey found that in the past year 23% of respondents had formally volunteered in organisations related to health, disability and social welfare. Whether or not the Big Society will unlock a willingness amongst more people to volunteer, particularly during a period of financial hardship, remains to be seen.

Providing opportunities for citizen engagement through volunteering is not a free good.  It is crucial that structures are in place to support and develop volunteers and their contribution must be fully costed when services are being planned.  Currently volunteer services are often excluded from this level of attention.  Government must ensure that adequate resources are available to really make this idea work.

But the success of the Big Society can not be judged solely on the level of funding going to voluntary organisations or even the number of people volunteering. If it is about increased power to local people to design and contribute the services they need then it also needs to be able to respond to the needs of the most marginalised.

It will also lie in how well it responds to the needs of the most marginalised.  Everyone should be able to participate in the Big Society on an equal basis.  Too often, the most vulnerable individuals, young people, parents and the elderly are powerless to make the changes they want and need in their area. This could be due to their circumstances or inability to influence or act.  The barriers of frustration and obstacles to change must be overcome if we are to create the Big Society.

I was reminded of this by a colleague who had spoken to a young asylum seeker. Having escaped to the UK this 17 year old was faced with living without gas or electricity, without enough English to get a job and lacking the bus fare to even travel to the job centre. What, if anything, did Britain’s ‘Big Society’ mean to him?

Perhaps the biggest danger is that the Big Society could evolve to be literally just that. A society of the biggest, strongest, wealthiest and most vocal which fails to support marginalised groups, the most vulnerable and the disadvantaged.

The debates currently taking place within the political arena are important. Politicians need to address what they mean by the Big Society and clearly lay out how it will work in practice. This must be done in consultation service users and charities.

The definition of the Big Society is not set in stone. We have a real opportunity to build on the good work already happening in communities up and down the country and to ensure it doesn’t just become another empty slogan. But policies should not lead to the withdrawal of support from the most marginalised; wherever they may be. Whether services are provided by Government or by others is a matter for politicians. The bottom line is vulnerable people must get the support they need.

Five-minute lifesavers at the airport


woman giving CPRGoing to the airport is – let’s face it – a stressful affair. There’s the lugging of heavy suitcases, the queues, the decanting of toiletries into tiny plastic bags, the constant checking to see if you have passport, ticket etc. Then, if you’re lucky,  you have a few frenzied minutes of last-minute shopping thrown in for good measure. Relaxing, it ain’t.

However, I was delighted to discover that going to the airport can be a learning experience too (and I’m not talking about mastering the art of shoehorning all your bits and pieces for a week’s holiday into a tiny carry-on case).

Passengers travelling through Heathrow now have the chance to learn life-saving skills in five minutes from London Ambulance medics. The initiative was launched last week at Terminal 5, in association with Medtronic (who are supplying the equipment) and BAA.

Yes, it’s amazing that you can now check in, pick up some suntan cream and learn what to do if you see someone suffering a cardiac arrest…all before even boarding your flight. Ambulance staff are training members of the public in CPR using mannequinns, as well as showing people how to use a defibrillator.

Studies show that immediate CPR and defibrillation are critical to survival, and the chances of successful defibrillation decline at a rate of seven to ten per cent with each minute of delay.

But you don’t need to go to the airport to learn life-saving skills. Sign up to one of our many first aid training courses or see our first aid tips and videos.

Skydive, climb Everest…make a will


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.