Red Cross: Volunteers needed
By JANELLE DE SOUZA Saturday, August 18 2012
Many organisations have banded together to provide relief supplies and assistance for the many victims of last Saturday’s rains and floods.
Newsday spoke to a few organisations that have been working closely with affected communities and victims since the disaster occurred.
Leslie St John, Communications Manager of the Red Cross informed Newsday that they work with the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) and the Diego Martin Regional Corporation.
“Operating in concert with the ODPM and the Regional Corporation, we are trying to bridge the gap between people who want to donate, and the communities,” she said. “We take our guidance from these organisations to make sure the people who are affected get what they need.”
Red Cross volunteers, trained in Shelter Management, have been managing the shelters set up by the Corporation.
Operating out of their headquarters at 7A Fitzblackman Drive, Wrightson Road Extension, the volunteers have been distributing hampers of food, water, personal care items, baby products, bedding, cleaning products and more throughout the affected communities.
St John said while corporate Trinidad and Tobago has been involved, a tremendous amount of contributions were from citizens.
The more urgent needs of the victims were food items, bedding, mattresses, towels, water, and sanitary items such as toilet paper. Companies who could assist with small fridges, stoves and other appliances would also be welcomed.
She said the Red Cross was “always looking for volunteers” and anyone who wishes to help could visit the headquarters, and fill out a registration form. Volunteers are needed to sort through donations, pack and create hampers, and in the distribution process.
“Any help is appreciated at this time. This is not a five-day situation. A significant amount of persons have been affected, and would need help for a while,” she said.
Elena Villafana-Silvester, CEO of the Foundation for the Enhancement and Enrichment of Life (FEEL) said her organisation was able to respond immediately because, since the 2010 flood, they maintained a Disaster Relief Inventory. Together with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Food for the Poor and the Bankers Association of TT, the umbrella Non- Governmental Organisation (NGO) maintain an inventory of relief items.
FEEL has been using their existing stock in Carenage and Diego Martin, distributing supplies through its numerous NGO partners and various community groups.
Silvester explained that some community groups do not have the space to store supplies and so FEEL intends to arrange specific times for distribution directly to those in need.
However, ideally, they first try to visit the area and do an assessment of needs before distribution.
“The main thing is to get clean water to the affected persons. FEEL has provided many with Hydration Bottles which contains chemicals that purifies and filters the water in it,” she explained. FEEL has also provided Hygiene Kits with soap, towels, deodorant, tooth brushes and toothpaste; kits for newborns in sanitised packs with blankets, sheets, children’s underwear, food, shoes and clothes.
Tarpaulin, detergent, disinfectants, all purpose cleaner, dust masks, shovels, and hand sanitiser was also made available.
Silvester noted that the Kiss Baking Company provided FEEL with breakfast items for up to 500 persons and Republic Bank donated money for the purchase of necessary items.
While enough clothes and shoes were available, Silvester called on the public to donate household items such as foodstuff, can openers, pots and pans. She also asked for monetary donations so that the organisation could meet the specific needs of families. Those donations could be made at Scotiabank’s Ellerslie Branch to account # 120 0274.
In addition, she asked for volunteers to assist in terms of transportation, to pack items and do assessments as it was always a challenge getting to the individuals in need of help.
Gayap, on the other hand, has been helping through the recruitment of volunteers and executing a food relief campaign.
“We have been successful in recruiting volunteers for food and hamper distribution through facebook, media contacts and all of the outreach we did over the weekend,” stated Maria O’Brien, Communications Officer for the NGO. “Gayap was also successful in getting support from some corporate sponsors for food donations such as Prestige Holdings Ltd, Dominos, Irie Bites and Pizza Boys.”
O’Brien said recently, there have been more requests for care products and items such as shower curtains and mattresses. However food and clothing remain the most urgent need below the cleaning and restoration of homes.
“Gayap would like to make a call to all sectors of society to donate to the relief effort,” said O’Brian. “Either through donating household items, sanitary supplies – soaps, hand sanitiser, toothpaste – kids stuff, clothes for men, women and children, books and school supplies, bedding and sheets and food supplies – perishables (bread, cooked food) and non-perishables (canned sausages, tuna).”
Gayap called on the Business Community to donate services and products that could assist affected families and for individuals to donate to the relief effort by sending money to the TT Red Cross Flood Relief Fund. The organisation also has a need for volunteer drivers to gather donations and deliver them to the Regional Corporation.
Members of the public wishing to donate items or assist in other ways can find out how at facebook.com/gayaptt. Donations could be dropped off at the Jericho Project at 1 Western Main Road between 8 am and 4 pm every day.
O’Brien said their biggest challenge so far was the lack of operating phones as, on several occasions, lines went down and communication was cut off between volunteers and representatives on the field.