FRC Volunteers abroad in EU project

Hanna-Leena Tikkanen
Jorge Martin Vera

Nurse and first-aid instructor Johanna Arvo from Kaarina, Finland, went to Paraguay as part of an EU Aid Volunteers programme in which the Finnish Red Cross is involved.

Johanna, a former competitive swimmer who has spent most of her life in the water, helped to train lifeguards for the local Red Cross Society to help strengthen Paraguay’s disaster preparedness.

- I have just returned from Brussels, where I met Leo, a graduate from the lifeguard course I taught in Paraguay. He told me that the local Red Cross Society has now set up a lifeguard team and updated its manuals for lifeguard operations. So, the work there continues, says Johanna, clearly happy with developments.

As this project in Paraguay was an EU pilot project it, along with others, was recently reviewed in Brussels.During 2011–2013, more than 100 people, including eight FRC volunteers, took part in aid work in various parts of the world.

In 2014, the EU will start sending out volunteers to do humanitarian aid work. Although the exact form and regulations of the Aid Volunteers programme are yet to be finalised, the intention is to offer thousands of people a chance to get involved in aid work all over the world before the year 2020.The Finnish Red Cross is considering applying for status as one of the organisations that supplies volunteers.

The right volunteer for each and every project

Johanna Arvo was in Paraguay for the FRC from January through April 2013. She was stationed in the city of Encarnación, where a total of 10 lifeguards were trained during the course she taught.The city sits on a wide river and although many of its inhabitants like to enjoy their leisure time by the river, it has had no trained lifeguards

- They have fixed up three beaches there, but only some five per cent of the local people know how to swim,says Johanna. - There is a clear need for lifeguard skills, because the flowing water is dangerous and people have drowned.

At 36 and being an experienced first-aid teacher and swimming instructor for adults, Johanna was a perfect fit for the Paraguay project.In Brussels, she expressed her hope that efforts to find the right volunteer to fulfil particular aid requirements will continue.She also voiced her concerns for the safety of the volunteers.

- A safety plan should always be in place for each volunteer before they leave on a tour of duty. In this, the EU could learn from the Red Cross.