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Saluting volunteerism and service to humanity

By Delia Chatoor

In Matthew 25: 31–46, Jesus delivered another parable on the Last Judgement in which He reminded the disciples that they should not neglect those in need.

He said: “In truth I tell you, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.”

In many ways, these words reflect the philosophy which has guided the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement (RCRC) and the Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society (TTRCS) which is a member of the Movement.

On May 31, 1963, the Act for the Incorporation of the TTRCS was assented to and confirmed the organisation as one of the members of the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

An additional recognition by another Component of the Movement, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) August 8, 1963, cemented the membership.

During the early years as a Branch of the British Red Cross (BRC) (1939–1962), the work of the National Society (NS) was recognised as an auxiliary to the army medical services and was closely associated with health concerns such as first aid, home care and a convalescent home.

The NS also cared for the wounded and sick in hospitals and the victims of natural disasters. There was also a Junior Red Cross which drew membership from the education system.

The genesis of the RCRC Movement emerged from the thinking of Henri Dunant, a Swiss national who in 1859 witnessed the horrors of another European war and declared that something positive had to be done to alleviate the pain and suffering of all soldiers.

From this mustard seed grew an international mechanism which up to today seeks to help those who are unable to help themselves because of humanitarian crises.

The NS, therefore, embraced this ethos but as the years moved on, radical changes in the humanitarian needs of the international and domestic communities emerged so that the NS and the RCRC movement were called upon “to regroup and refocus”.

Such challenges led to programmes on HIV-AIDS, impact of climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic, more frequent and intense natural disasters, dislocation of populations though migratory trends and restoring family links.

To implement the programmes and outreach to all sectors of the local community, the NS has relied on its volunteers drawn from a cross-section of the country and through their actions have lived up to the seven Fundamental Principles of the RCRC Movement: Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence, Volunteer Service, Unity and Universality.

The NS has also encouraged and maintained a productive and robust cadre of young people drawn from the education system. The three sections embrace those from ages 5–11; Junior Cadets from 12–16; and the Senior Cadets, 19–25. Their motto is: “Serve One Another”.

Along with its humanitarian achievements, the NS has been seen as the standard bearer of Children’s Carnival with an annual event which brings to the fore the creative skills and talents of many local Carnival Band leaders and volunteers.

May 8 is observed annually as World Red Cross Red Crescent Day when the NS joins with its volunteers, members, and well-wishers globally to recognise their relevance in the pursuit of humanitarian diplomacy.

At age 60, it is therefore fitting for the NS to recommit to its principles, values and tenets which have guided it to reach out to the most vulnerable.

The TTRCS has persevered and so has maintained its enthusiasm to embrace the lyrics of a song associated with its work:

“If I can help somebody as I pass along; If I can help somebody with a word or song; If I can help somebody from doing wrong…then my living shall not be in vain.”

Congratulations to the TTRCS on its 60th anniversary.


Delia Chatoor is a retired foreign service officer and a Lay Minister of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help, San Fernando Parish. She is a former President of the TTRCS.