Praise for Red Cross volunteers who gave up 200,000 hours of their free time

The role of Ireland’s almost 4,000 Red Cross volunteers has been praised as it emerged they gave 200,000 hours of their free time to volunteer in humanitarian assistance exercises last year.

Activities ranged from running first aid stations at music festivals and sports events to distributing fresh water and providing transport during floods to ensuring refugees and migrants arriving here had essential supplies and supports.

Some 2,300 patients were treated by volunteers during the year at public events but there was also a less visible side to their work.

In an example of a happy ending to the organisation’s international tracing programme for refugees and migrants, they reunited a Somali mother living in Ireland with the teenage son she had last seen aged six after she was forced to flee their village when it was attacked while the boy and his father were away fishing.

Speaking at the publication of the organisation’s annual report for 2016, chairman Pat Carey said their work — supporting projects both at home and abroad — made them lifesavers.

“The volunteers working in support of the Irish Red Cross form a humanitarian force made up of thousands of people throughout the country who seek to be part of the catalyst of change in their communities,” he said.

“Voluntary service adds a value that can not be replicated — it saves people’s lives.”

That work was evident in recent weeks as branches around the country joined in the emergency response to Storm Ophelia when 38 Irish Red Cross units were placed on standby.

During the storm, 17 emergency callouts were made to assist with getting essential hospital staff to work and with patient transfers between home and hospitals, and hospitals and nursing homes.

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