I expect most of know of and have positive views about the Red Cross. The role of the Red Cross internationally in war and disaster zones is well understood. Just this week I read a story in the Herald about Mr Jack Kelly a NZ prisoner of war in World War 2 who had been held in atrocious conditions in a German prisoner of war camp in Greece. He put his survival down to Red Cross parcels he received.
The mission of New Zealand Red Cross is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilising the power of humanity and enhancing community resilience and their principles are Humanity-Impartiality-Neutrality-Independence-Voluntary Service-Unity-Universality.
I was lucky enough last night to attend a presentation on the work of Red Cross at Parliament and I learned about the full range of Red Cross activities internationally and within NZ. The work within New Zealand was greater than I had understood and includes – installing first aid equipment in public places, running first aid courses, delivering meals on wheels (750,000 per year), running a drug and alcohol harm minimisation programme ‘Save a Mate’ (targeting young), providing transportation to hospitals, running Op Shops, supporting refugee resettlement and coordinating emergency response to disasters. A most impressive range of acivities delivered primarily by volunteers.
One specific and growing role that Red Cross plays within New Zealand is the provision of breakfast to hungry children through their Breakfast in Schools programme. Demand for this programme is on the rise. While it is a very positive initiative I am sure that I am not the only person who feels angry that we have such poverty in this country. For a comparatively rich country that is a major food producer it is a disgrace that such child poverty exists. Over 200,00 breakfasts were served in over 40 schools in 2009. Red Cross believes up to 20 further schools will be added during 2010. Budget 2010 by lifting GST and making cuts in areas like Early Childhood Education will increase poverty.
Mr Jack Kelly talked about the NZ value of a fair go. What is clear is that many NZ children do not have a fair go and this Government will make this situation worse.