Red Cross sees young volunteer numbers triple during pandemic
Over 1,200 people under the age of 25 have joined the organization since March
The coronavirus pandemic has seen the number of young people volunteering to work for the Red Cross triple.
"Covid-19 has united us as humans." This is how one volunteer summed up the huge enlistment of new members into the organization since the pandemic broke out.
From mid-March to early August, the arrival of new volunteers has grown by almost 280% compared to the same period last year. The figure soars to 365% in the case of children under 25.
One of the biggest reasons that young people have turned to doing solidarity work is to fill the gap left by the older volunteers, who have had to take a back seat to preserve their health. “I couldn’t be idle at a time when a lot of hands are needed,” explains 16-year-old Maria.
Among the tasks the group is carrying out, in conjunction with the Catalan government, is to educate other young people on the risk of coronavirus transmission in social gatherings.
The project is taking place across 38 towns in Catalonia and hopes to reach over 95,000 people, particularly those enjoying nightlife activities.
Surge in volunteers
According to data confirmed by the Catalan News Agency, in the last five months, almost 4,800 volunteers have been added to the Red Cross, while last year there were less than 1,300 during the same period. In the case of boys and girls under 25, since the outbreak of the pandemic, the organization has seen more than 1,200 new members join, a figure that is far from the roughly 260 young people who joined the entity last year.
"Young people are very supportive, although it is often said that they only do 'botellón'" (public drinking), says the president of the Red Cross in the Alt Penedès region, Àngels Matas.
She explains that with the start of the pandemic, there was a massive response to volunteer. “When there is a serious problem, young people respond,” she celebrates, recalling that the confinement turned the Red Cross upside down, as the organization asked all volunteers over the age of 60 to stay at home.
Matas points out that, in the case of the Vilafranca del Penedès headquarters, they made a call through social networks, to which about a hundred young people responded.
After remote training, they quickly deployed throughout the territory, bringing food and medicine to confined people, caring for homeless citizens to move them to the municipal hostel, or making calls to elderly people living alone were the main tasks.
Apart from the solidarity tasks, Matas points out that the arrival of young people to the team of volunteers has brought "freshness, joy, smiles, and a great desire to lend a hand." Plus, they “bring very vivid looks,” she jokes.
"It's been very enriching," says Alba, a young volunteer in the town of Les Cabanyes, just outside Vilafranca del Penedès. She joined the Red Cross in late March and says that she had the idea of volunteering for a long time and the pandemic was the final push.
During the state of alarm she was engaged in distributing food to families in financial need, a job she explains that "opened her eyes."
"We often put labels to identify the typical person who may need help, and they're not true," she says, adding, "I've been to homes of people who would never have thought they might need the help of the Red Cross for food for the whole family for a week."
She says this reality is what has “impacted” her the most. "We can all find ourselves in a similar situation. If I ever need this help, I would like to find people who are close by doing this little job," she says.