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World Red Cross Red Crescent Day :


Honouring volunteer service


Ladies and Gentlemen,


May is the month of Days.  But perhaps one of the most widely-known and internationally-recognised of those Days in May is World Red Cross Red Crescent Day normally observed all over the world on May 8th.  However, this year in Saint Lucia, the observance was postponed to May 15th, so as not to be distracted by the other national activities that were held on May 8th.  As always, the Day’s observance focuses on a special theme selected by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for its global appeal and relevance.  This year’s theme is “World Red Cross Red Crescent Day : honouring volunteer service.” And how appropriately selected, as this year marks the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers.  The International Federation has therefore joined the European  Union in celebrating 2011 as the year for volunteers and volunteering.  It contends, and justifiably so, that although volunteers provide an invaluable service to countless communities around the globe their sacrifice and dedication are often unappreciated and often go unrecognized.  The call therefore goes out this year for greater recognition of the sizeable contribution volunteers make in a world increasingly confronted by challenges linked to such adversities as natural and technological disasters, disease, war and other armed violence, poverty, thunder and climate change.


It has been said that volunteers are one of the greatest assets communities have when a crisis occurs.  And it is worth pointing out that they are often themselves the victims of the very same crises they are responding to.  Imagine therefore the courage and sense of solidarity that it takes to put one’s own suffering and misadventure aside to take action to help others.  In deciding to pay tribute to their invaluable service over the years, and particularly in 2010, the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies is articulating the sentiments of gratitude which so many of us hold towards volunteers from different organizations, both local and beyond our shores.  It is a tribute which they richly deserve.


National Red Cross Societies are therefore being encouraged to make 2011 a Red Cross Red Crescent Year.  As the largest volunteer network in the world, 2011 provides an excellent opportunity to profile the Movement’s 151 years of impact and service in the humanitarian field.  Suggestions include developing national campaigns aimed at raising the profile of volunteers and promoting the merits of volunteerism in building communities, restoring hope, shaping lives.  The Saint Lucia Red Cross has taken up the challenge and will be mounting a national campaign to culminate on International Volunteer Day, 5 December.  The aim is to work with all local volunteer-based organizations – government agencies, service organizations, faith-based groups, clubs, community organizations, youth groups – to promote good practice and in particular to promote the importance of working together.  There is no question that the many organizations involved in volunteer service have been working at it, assiduously, in their own corners, or in their own specific areas.  But I am convinced that we would all benefit from more collaboration, more co-ordination of programmes, more of a coming together of like-minded people. I therefore strongly urge all groups to respond positively when the Saint Lucia Red Cross approaches you this year to partner with it in celebrating yourselves, in giving yourselves a collective pat on the back for the wonderful work that you have been doing, whether quietly or in full public view.


I want to make a special appeal to our young people to consider the virtues of volunteering.  The energy, the vitality, the freshness of ideas that you can bring to the movement will excite and inspire, and breathe new life in our flagging efforts.  Use the technology of the social media networks at which you are so adept to mobilise other young people like yourself to help vulnerable groups, to bring relief and cheer to the depressed and the lonely, to build communities, to build our nation.  Sign up for something and encourage your peers to do something.


A special word to the members of the Saint Lucia Red Cross.  Make the best use of 2011.  You have been given this year the unique opportunity to highlight the value of your national society.  Think of the ways in which you can make the Red Cross the first choice for people who want to volunteer.  Assess your own value and contribution and make it known to the public, so that they can truly appreciate your impact on this country’s humanitarian landscape.  Voluntary emergency action is your unique quality in comparison to other volunteer organizations.  Use this focus to position your national society and reach out to new volunteers.  Many people are only interested in volunteering when there is a high profile emergency.  Use that interest to engage them and show them that volunteerism can enrich their lives at all times.  How often do you celebrate your volunteers ?  This year in particular, make their achievements and contributions visible, and if resources permit, organise a formal celebration and recognition event.  Engage your volunteers in reaching out to individuals, the corporate sector, the government and other organizations.  Invest in training them as communicators.  Your advocacy message depends on it, as does your recruitment drive for new vibrant volunteers.  Engage locally, regionally and globally.  The Red Cross Message is not meant to be proprietary, only for the ears of members.  It is meant to be shared.


Members of the Red Cross, you have taken the lead here in observing this year as the Year of Volunteers and Volunteering.  Make the activities a fitting tribute to these men, women and young people who have committed themselves to giving freely of themselves to make a difference in the lives of others.

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