Red Cross seeks more volunteers, funding

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The Philippine Red Cross welcomes your blood, but it also needs you to become Red Cross volunteers and contribute for an even more sustainable disaster and emergency response.

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Red Cross Philippines Secretary General Oscar Palabyab made the appeal as the humanitarian agency turns 70 years in April.

Palabyab noted that while there are around 100 million Filipinos, only 2.4 million have signed up as Red Cross volunteers and contributed a one-time membership fee ranging from P60 to P1,000. Of the 2.4 million, at least 200,000 of them are trained in first aid responses.

Aside from blood-letting and first-aid responses training, Red Cross also mobilizes ambulances, does camp management training (tents for disaster), sets up emergency field hospitals, provides classroom units as well as livelihood. It helped those affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda which left at least 6,000 people dead.

“There is more to Red Cross than blood-letting, but people do not know us well compared with GMA Kapuso Foundation or ABS-CBN’s Sagip Kapamilya which receive much exposure because they are owned by media entities. Not enough people give us money when there is no natural disaster, and that’s the greatest challenge for us,” Palabyab said.

“We get help from our international partners and the government agencies, but we don’t have a fixed subsidy to sustain our operations so we need more support from our people. We need some lift. I would say having 10 million Red Cross volunteers would be ideal,” Palabyab added.

To drum up financial and manpower support, the Red Cross will mark its anniversary with the launch of a state-of-the-art, $1.75-million humanitarian ship which can ferry at least 1,000 people on April 20.

This is on top of a fun run in May in a bid to recruit Red Cross volunteers and likewise secure a Guinness World Record of having the largest humanitarian fun run and the largest human Red Cross emblem. The registration fee for the fun run is P500.

“Being a Red Cross volunteer is as good as getting the most affordable insurance because you will be trained to respond to natural disasters, fires, health emergencies, among others. You can be proud that you are part of something benefit a lot of people,” Palabyab pointed out.

The US Navy built the humanitarian ship, formerly named M/V Susitna, in Alaska. If it won’t be loaded with 1,000 people, it can accommodate 120 people and 20 vehicles.

The humanitarian ship’s maintenance, however, cost a fortune. Filling its fuel tank (87,000 liters) is worth P2.4 million, and a route from Subic to Davao route could already cost P1 million in fuel.

“This ship is sturdy. Since it was made in Alaska, it was made to withstand ice glaciers. You can dock it by the beach and it won’t be compromised. This will be our largest humanitarian ship and will be very useful in quick response activities,” Palabyab said.

“After all, the value of human lives that it could save cannot be translated to any monetary cost,” Palabyab added.

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