Strengthening the Red Cross volunteer network in Papua New Guinea

Published: 3 August 2015 3:00 CET

By Navinesh Kumar, IFRC

In West New Britain, Papua New Guinea, the work of Red Cross volunteers has been particularly important since severe storms linked to tropical cyclone Pam swept through the province four months ago, leaving many people in need of humanitarian support.

As part of its ongoing recovery efforts, the Papua New Guinea Red Cross is investing in building the capacity of its volunteer force, to ensure they are ready to respond should disaster strike again. Training on hygiene promotion, emergency response and gender based violence took place in recent weeks to enhance the skills of the volunteers and to improve the support they can provide for storm-affected communities.

“My friends told me about the Red Cross, and how it creates an impact on people’s lives,” said Daisy Paku, a 31-year-old nurse who is also a Red Cross volunteer.

Daisy is one of 500 volunteers in Papua New Guinea, working to build the resilience of remote communities while helping them to recover from the impacts of Cyclone Pam.

“I had training on emergency response, hygiene promotion and gender based violence,” said Daisy. “I learnt how to refer cases of violence against women and child abuse. This is new to me but it is important because it is for our safety. We must report cases like this if we are all to be secure,” she added.

Daisy is also helping to organize community-based hygiene promotion sessions, and uses her training as a nurse to share vital health tips.

“We gather people together for hygiene promotion at the Health Centre. We talk to them and tell them to exercise the best hygiene practices to avoid the spread of diseases like diarrhoea as it is a big problem that affects the community.”  

For volunteers like Maureen Asi (40), the experience of helping others has also been incredibly rewarding.

“Hearing stories from my friends about volunteering for the Red Cross has made me realise that I was born to commit myself to serving people,” she said. “My life has completely changed after becoming a volunteer. I am now a better person with an open mind.”

For the last six years, Maureen has been a vital member of the Papua New Guinea volunteer network and is an avid supporter of volunteering. She has now turned her attention to encouraging her family to get involved.

“I have managed to convince my husband to volunteer and in the very near future, my children will join us," she said.  

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Australian Red Cross, have supported the Papua New Guinea Red Cross relief and recovery operation by providing hundreds of relief items such as water containers, mosquito nets, tarpaulins, blankets and kitchen sets.