Sunday, May 4, 2008


THE backbone of the Red Cross movement the world over is its volunteers - close to 100 million men and women in 191 countries working for 186 national societies.
They're engaged in a labour of love to make sure fellow citizens who need their help receive it.
The Fiji Red Cross is no different. It has 15 branches nationwide with about 300 active volunteers.
The volunteers are driven only by their desire to make the lives of those they serve, a little better with each visit.
They're paid travelling expenses and a small allowance for their effort.
Each volunteer is trained in a chosen area.
In the West, 62-year-old retired Lautoka Hospital ward assistant, Hazra Khan, decided that staying home to watch the grass grow was not for her.
So in February this year, she signed on as a volunteer with the Lautoka branch,
Hazra not only ensures the day starts off on a clean note, but she's also taken on community visits with trained health and welfare volunteers as an observer.
"She's like a mother to the volunteers and whenever there is a need, she is always available - and when she's asked to do something, she does it with a warm smile," says branch president, Ganpati. In Levuka, 42 year-old Daya Wati is the heart and soul of the Levuka branch.
The former Suva resident moved to the old capital after she married a resident on the island.
Her boat trip to Levuka just so happened to coincide with the day of the 1987 coup, a point that is not lost on her as she recounts how she has over the years grown to love her adopted home.
Daya has been a volunteer with Levuka branch since the late 1990's but before she became a volunteer, she was a beneficiary - well, not her directly but her children.
Her two sons - Rajeev and Rajesh - were born with cataracts.
Cataracts form when the protein in the lens clump together, - this produces a 'clouding' or frosted affect.
"My oldest son Rajeev went to school when it was time but when he went into Class Two, the teachers told me to put him into Nora Frasier's school because he wasn't coping," Daya said.
People from Levuka will remember the late Nora Frasier, a Canadian woman who set up a school on the island for children with special needs.
Nora was also a vibrant and tireless Health and Welfare volunteer with Red Cross Levuka branch. Her contact with the community saw her help hundreds of children with differing needs.
"When I took him to Mrs. Frasier, she assessed him and my younger son Rajesh who also had cataracts," Daya said.
"Mrs. Frasier made arrangements for Rajeev to have his cataracts operated on. Three months later Rajesh also had an operation and since then I have committed myself as a volunteer for Red Cross."
Rajeev is now an active 17 year-old back in mainstream school working towards completing his secondary education. Rajesh is 14 years-old and still attending the Nora Frasier School.
"My children would not have had the benefit of sight if it wasn't for Nora Frasier and the Red Cross," Daya said.
"I dedicate all my free time helping out where ever I can at the branch because I feel I have to give something back."
Hazra and Daya are but two of many Red Cross volunteers who work to make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable.Become a volunteer with Red Cross, download a volunteer form at> or contact your nearest Red Cross

Adapted from Fijitimes Online