Haitian Red Cross celebrates 82 years of service

Published: 29 May 2014 16:08 CET

By Lorraine Taggart, IFRC

"I saw all the damage Hurricane Inez caused and I wanted to help, so I decided to become a Red Cross volunteer"

On May 29th, 2014, the Haitian Red Cross celebrates 82 years of service and the work and dedication of all volunteers. This special occasion comes just weeks after the May 8th celebration of the  International Red Cross and Red Crescent Day.

Harry Germain has been a Haitian Red Cross volunteer since 1966. He became a volunteer after Hurricane Inez struck the southwest of Haiti leaving 60,000 people homeless.  Germain took this opportunity to become a volunteer and help those in need even as his own hometown of Jacmel was severely affected by the hurricane.

Now even at 65 years of age, this father of 5 continues to assist the Haitian Red Cross whenever he is needed and believes that being a Red Cross volunteer should be something that every person in the country  is willing to do.

“My most memorable experience  was when we responded to an automobile accident on Route Nationale #2. There were many people injured and would have died had it not been for the rapid response of the Red Cross and its volunteers. That really showed me the importance of the work we were doing”.

Since the creation of the Haitian Red Cross in 1932, volunteers have been the backbone of the organization at the local, national, regional and global levels. Today, more than ever, they are at the heart of all activities of the Red Cross National and contribute to the success of the National Society. The 10,000 volunteers from the Haitian Red Cross are part of the global network of more than 17 million active volunteers who help millions of vulnerable people in times of need.

Over the years, the humanitarian programmes of the Haitian Red Cross have evolved to meet the needs of the population. Among the programmes undertaken by the Haitian Red Cross are blood donation and collection, HIV/AIDS prevention, ambulance services, disaster risk reduction and disaster preparedness. After the January 12th, 2010 earthquake, Haitian Red Cross volunteers were at the heart of the international relief operation. At the beginning of the cholera epidemic in October 2010, the Haitian Red Cross immediately mobilized volunteers to ensure that the population had access to preventive counselling and care services for patients. More recently, the Haitian Red Cross has paid particular attention to the prevention of all forms of violence in society. It is also involved in humanitarian diplomacy by advocating with the government and its agencies to apply international disaster response law (IDRL).

Marie Jocelyne Lamarre, the National Coordinator of the Volunteer Management Unit, is responsible for managing these volunteers as well as recruiting new volunteers to broaden the reach of Haitian Red Cross activities.  

"Our vision is to renew and permanently increase the number of our volunteers, train them, and ensure their protection all in the perspective of strengthening the Red Cross", says Marie Jocelyne Lamarre.

Red Cross volunteers are offered a variety of trainings in order to be better prepared to respond in an emergency.  Between 2011 and 2014, hundreds of Red Cross volunteers have been trained in water and urban rescue as well as violence prevention and blood donation.

"These trainings represent a significant investment for the Haitian Red Cross, but the result is a pool of skilled volunteers who can better respond in the event of a disaster but also to prevent disasters. Increasing resilience among the most vulnerable is made possible through donations from benefactors, individuals, organizations, governments and Red Cross societies who have not hesitated to support the Haitian Red Cross", states Pericles Jean-Baptiste, Director of Communications and Public Relations of the Haitian Red Cross.