A helping hand in times of despair

Publié: 1 juillet 2016 8:37 CET

By Mahieash Johnney, Sri Lanka Red Cross Society - @mahieash 

Every morning, Chameera Peiris makes his way to the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society’s Colombo branch to provide briefings for the operations team that will engage in well-cleaning activities within the district. The branch has been cleaning wells since severe floods triggered by torrential rains swept through Colombo two months ago, contaminating almost 80% of the communities’ water sources.  

Part of Chameera’s duty is to work together with the operations team and help clean contaminated wells to ensure that people will have safe drinking water.

“Most of the people living in the area we are working in are in a vulnerable state,” said Chameera. “If the Red Cross does not help them, then no one else will do it for them.”

This is not Chameera’s first emergency operation. He joined the Red Cross in 2005 when he was a student in suburban Colombo. He first heard about the Red Cross when he was in the ninth grade, when two volunteers came looking for people to help manage a relief camp in a nearby temple following a tsunami.  Chameera was the first in line to help.

“Back then, I didn’t understand the Red Cross’s global humanitarian role or how big it was,” he said. “The first time I visited the temple and saw the dismal state of the people who were displaced, and what the volunteers were doing to help, it captivated my heart and soul. Despite having no knowledge of the Red Cross as a whole, I understood the essence of it all through the volunteers’ actions and was determined to help.”

One of the key areas of focus for the national society is floods. Chameera has been involved in ensuring people across the district receive proper humanitarian care.

Following the recent flooding, the Sri Lanka Red Cross branches in two of the worst affected districts (Colombo & Gampaha) have cleaned over 2,500 wells thanks to volunteers like Chameera. When he is not involved in emergency operations, Chameera volunteers as a first aid instructor.

“For me, volunteering has become an addiction,” Chameera explained. “Every time I help someone or speak to them, I understand the importance of volunteering. It’s not about providing just a service. It’s about ensuring that people who are in the most vulnerable state, who have absolutely no one to help them, get the quality care they need to return them to a dignified life.”