Maurice (23) was woken at 4am at the home he shares with his mother, father and four brothers and sisters in Petionville, Haiti. The urgent message was to tell him he was on red alert and should be ready to be deployed at any time as preparations for tropical storm Emily hitting the country continue.
This is the life of a Haitian Red Cross volunteer and this mornings’ early warning was not the start of Maurice’s work. He has been helping to prepare his local community, ever since news of the impending storm first broke.
“I’ve made sure we have food, water and basic items stored at home and have been out to speak to my neighbours and give them some basic preparedness advice. I made sure I went to meet the most vulnerable personally” he said.
“Some were aware, but some were not” he continued. “Lots of people in the neighbourhood don’t even have the money to buy a radio – that’s why it’s important to do it face to face.”
Michelin (37), a nurse and Haitian Red Cross volunteer from Delmas 24 has also been out in her local community.
“I’ve been going door to door, telling people how important it is to put all their important documents in plastic wallets in case of flooding”.
Hundreds of Haitian Red Cross volunteers are on standby throughout the country, ready to respond should emergency strike and millions of Red Cross SMS have been to inform people of the impending storm and to give simple steps people can take to keep safe. Radyo Kwa Wouj, the weekly Red Cross radio show, also had an emergency broadcast on Weds 2nd August, focusing on providing advice on preparing for the storm and answering callers questions live on air such as how long will tropical storm Emily last, where should we go in case of flooding and what is the difference between a storm and a hurricane?
“It is important that people understand, what is a storm or a cyclone, and then they can make the preparations to face it” continued Maurice.
The Red Cross also has pre-positioned emergency supplies to reach up to 125,000 people in vulnerable regions across the country including “Anse a Veau, Cap Haitien, Fort Liberte, Gonaives, Hinche, Jacmel, Jeremie, Leogane, Les Cayes, Petit Goave, Port de Paix, St Marc and Port-au-Prince. Concerns over the threat of heavy rains and potential landslides and flooding continue and Maurice and Michelene are ready to be called on, wherever and whenever the Red Cross may need them.
“I am on standby for the whole storm warning and am ready to be called on to help carry out first aid and help give people information on the storm” said Michelene.
“I love my country, I love the people in my neighbourhood” she continued. “I joined the Red Cross because they volunteer to help people who don’t have the capacity to help themselves.
Maurice agrees. “When you talk about the RC you talk about saving lives. I can’t say that all of Haiti is prepared right now, but I know in my neighbourhood, they will be ready.”