Help across borders

May 08, 2012, 06:46 IST | Dhara Vora

On the occasion of the World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, Dhara Vora visits the city chapter of this humanitarian society that goes about doing its bit for humanity, in a low-key fashion

With a presence in nearly every country across the globe, The Red Cross Society remains an integral part of civic life and safety. Playing a similar role in our city, the Maharashtra state branch of the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) is situated in the Town Hall compound in Asiatic Library.

A volunteer carrying seeds for villagers in Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra

The society has stepped in for the city during every disaster — natural or human, providing round-the-clock assistance to the police force, hospitals and victims. Homai Modi, Honorary Secretary of Bombay City Branch and Maharashtra State Branch says, “We run several training programmes for disaster management and these are conducted in different geographical parts of the state to equip our volunteers to handle different disasters.”

Cause of the people
IRCS also conducts Disaster Risk Reduction programmes in Wani and Barshi districts and at Mankhurd in Mumbai. The society provides help to people in any required form be it through beautician and nursing courses with the aim of empowering women, repairing wells and toilets in Maharashtra’s rural districts or donating goats to farmers in Barshi district.

Being a volunteer for the society can be quite dangerous many a time, especially in sections of the Gadchiroli district, which apart from being under forest cover is also a Naxalite area. The society has conducted several health camps in this district and also works towards the development and employment of the youth here. “Apart form direct help we also run educational programmes.

Our Youth Peer Education is a session that helps spread awareness about HIV and also works with patients,” says Modi who has been a part of the Mumbai chapter since 1992 and has worked on-field on various occasions including the 1993 Latur earthquake where apart from working without food for several hours, she also survived a whirlwind that destroyed everything on its way.

“It is very important to first look at the kind of disaster and do your home work. We had distributed more than 7,000 new implements to farmers in Latur after the earthquake. However, this left the carpenters, whose main business was to repair old tools unemployed,” she adds. The entire staff at the society in Mumbai has been trained in disaster management and have been one of the first ones to arrive at the scene during the blasts and the floods.

When the bomb blasts rocked Zaveri Bazar, the society had given away 33 units of blood, 30 body bags (which many hospitals do not stock) and white sheets apart from the volunteers transporting the victims to GT and JJ hospital in their ambulance. “During disasters, taking care of the families of the victims is very important. We provided food and water to the families during the blasts too,” she adds.

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