Red Cross Gears Up for Hurricane Season with Annual VARs Meeting

The Cayman Islands Red Cross (CIRC), which sits as the chair of the Volunteer Agency Responders (VARs) under the NEOC, held the annual 2021 VARs meeting, as part of the preparations for hurricane season and future emergencies, such as pandemics and natural or manmade disasters.  

26 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) attended the meeting, which was held at The Red Cross Head Quarters, including, ARK, Cayman Food Bank, Cayman Islands Regiment, Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, Feed our future, the Jamaican and Philippine Consulate, and Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) from across the island.

Deputy Governor the hon Franz Manderson, who also severs as Chairman of the National Hazard Management Council, officially opened the meeting by expressing his gratitude to the NGOs and service clubs and highlighted the important work they do. He stated that having organizations come together will only increase the island’s resilience and how projects that were founded by NGOs and service clubs contributed to the public.   

CIRC Disaster Manager Eddie Sepp Tinling-Miller presented the VARs structure and main role in coordinating voluntary organizations as and when a national emergency is declared. “The COVID 19 pandemic showed the important role Non-Governmental Organizations and voluntary agencies play in the response and recovery after a disaster. These organizations are recognized as equal partners united by the common goal of assisting with emergency response and disaster relief”, says Tinling-Miller. “The primary role of the VARs is to support humanitarian relief activities and serve as the point of contact for all NGO’s, voluntary agencies and non-profit organizations that wish to play a role in the disaster management process”, he adds.

To provide further information, HMCI Deputy Director David Broughton, explained how during an emergency, requests would come from the NEOC for volunteer assistance within the community. These requests will go through the VARs mechanism. Part of the VARs roles are Relief distribution, Emergency supplies, Administration, and Logistics.

As part of the COVID-19 response, the CIRC undertook the coordination of the National COVID-19 Volunteer Response. Moving forward, the CIRC will continue to coordinate the NGO sector response in order to maximize available aid and support the changing needs of the vulnerable communities on our Islands.

In absence of a disaster, the CIRC continues to work with VARs partners by supporting their vulnerable clients through the CIRC Thrift Shop Referral program. The Thrift Shop works closely with a number of government agencies and NGOs who refer their clients/beneficiaries to our service regularly using the CIRC referral form. Persons who are referred to the Thrift Shop are given access to Shop goods free of cost to them.

“NGOs play a tremendous part in assisting the most vulnerable communities year-round,” explains CIRC Director Jondo Obi, “and for many agencies, the workload only increases in times of emergencies. As part of lessons learned from the COVID 19 pandemic, and as we move into hurricane season we must do our utmost in helping to build systems that will maximize humanitarian assistance while helping to build local resilience, not only in times of disasters but also in times of peace” she adds.

We invite all voluntary organizations to join the VARs by emailing [email protected]