The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health crisis affecting economic stability and the livelihoods of many. Individuals are faced with multiple challenges – from the risk and fear of contracting the virus itself and the potential impact on overstretched health services, to the potential repercussions from containment measures on health, education, and livelihoods systems.
The Trinidad & Tobago Red Cross Society (TTRCS) continues to adapt in response to these new challenges, while ensuring that it continues to work towards its vision “to create a nation where present and future generations are empowered, resilient and self-reliant.”
The TTRCS has been working alongside the State and other partners in the fight against COVID-19 since March 2020 to help combat the spread of COVID-19, and limit its impact on fragile health systems, by building people’s knowledge and awareness, through various interventions including its “Stronger Together” Campaign. They are promoting education and empowerment through information; preventative action in communities, including practicing good hygiene and physical distancing measures in line with national governmental guidelines and recognised best practice.
The Core Element of TTRCS Response
There is no higher calling than when a person gives his or her own knowledge, skills, time, or resources to someone in need of help. This is the fundamental principle of volunteerism which is the heart of community-building that promotes trust and reciprocity. It encourages good citizenship and provides people with an environment where they can learn the responsibilities of community and civic involvement.
What is possibly even more significant is the impact that TTRCS volunteers have and their capacity to reach and serve vulnerable people in the most remote areas to assist people whose access to services is severely limited. Volunteers truly provide invaluable support to extend the reach of the paid workforce as well as to improve the quality of services through community knowledge and understanding of local culture and customs.
At the Red Cross, volunteers are the heart and soul of the organisation, they are the foot soldiers, the most valued resource – “it would be impossible to do what we do without them”. Volunteers who believe, embody, and contribute to a greater cause.
The power of humanity can be seen through the selfless action of the TTRCS volunteers.
TTRCS Response to COVID-19
The TTRCS has provided continuous response to COVID-19 by providing support to the Ministry of Health and directly to vulnerable populations. The TTRCS has been implementing activities through our central operations unit at Headquarters, initially mobilising 20 staff members and over 70 volunteers to support in the areas of Health, Psychosocial Support, Food Security and Water and sanitation. The first line of response was supporting the Ministry of Health in the provision of volunteers to conduct contact tracing exercises as well as in the mobilisation of a medical officer to one of the quarantine facilities.
The interventions in health have focused on mental health and Psychosocial support through a Digicel Powered Hotline and WhatsApp line where we have taken over 2,600 cases. The Psychosocial Kits for Adults, Children and Front-Line Workers were launched and distributed to provide an outlet for persons to cope. Special Care Packages were distributed to the health workers at quarantine sites in 2020. Finally, five mental health awareness features were produced in partnership with Digicel and made available via Digicel platforms.
The Ambulance and Emergency Care Teams have been responding to calls for support; while the Ambulance Crew at the Piarco International Airport, and Scarborough Port remained active in providing emergency care to travellers, when needed. Ambulance screening support at a shelter for “Socially Displaced Persons” that housed 62 persons was also provided. Since the onset of the vaccination roll out programme, the TTRCS Ambulance and Volunteer Support teams were dispatched to various vaccination sites across Trinidad.
Dissemination of community information via a “Community Miking” approach in very rural and remote communities continue weekly to ensure people have the information needed to protect themselves and their families during COVID-19, and vaccine information is also disseminated as an empowerment approach.
Persons who were quarantined at state facilities were given the option to maintain connectivity with their families through the installation of five WIFI Hotspot devices which were placed in three quarantine sites. This allowed 112 patients to have access to internet to make video calls to their families for the duration of their stay in quarantine.
Water and Sanitation
Two hundred and twenty posters on COVID-19 and Handwashing were distributed to the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service as well as posters in Spanish for the Immigration Detention Centre. Along with these posters, 1000 bars of soap were distributed among the prison population. Another 200 posters providing COVID-19 information were distributed to TTRCS Branches as well as high traffic public areas, and 50 additional hand washing posters were placed at supermarkets.
Eleven schools were provided with permanent hand washing stations that will benefit 6,566 students, while 539 schools were provided with hand washing and COVID-19 information.
To date 2,594 food vouchers (valued at USD$120, each) and 97 food parcels have been distributed to vulnerable families, while 535 parcels were distributed to persons in quarantine. Under the Migration Project initiative, 150 food vouchers (valued at USD$120, each) and 150 hygiene kits were distributed to vulnerable migrant families; and 50 Namdevco Food parcels were provided to persons living with HIV.
While the TTRCS aims to provide support to vulnerable persons, the ultimate aim is to strengthen the resilience of individuals and communities through every intervention and interaction. The food security overarching approach encompasses a garden to kitchen initiative through which approximately 37 individual garden starter kits have been distributed and 30 community garden groups have benefited from garden kits and vouchers.
All these interventions have been as a collective result of staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to ensure support is provided where needed to the most vulnerable in our society. The volunteers have contributed approximately 5,000-manpower hours towards the COVID-19 response.
Volunteering is a tool for empowerment, converting individual action into collective action directed towards a social end. It provides valuable opportunities to become active and responsible citizens in societies through participation and can also be a means to enhance professional skills and competencies, employability, and a sense of solidarity. It allows for the social mobilisation and organisation within the community. It also offers a means for people to show their value and to reaffirm that they have an important place in society. It can build a sense of self-worth, and true feeling of pride contributing to creating a better world.
Volunteering is a key function in strengthening civil society. The Red Cross encourages you to help us build a movement of volunteerism through actions. Motivate your neighbour, a friend, a family member to volunteer. Let’s do this together, sign up at: http://ttrcs.org/volunteer/