21 April 2010
A British Red Cross psychosocial support team is helping Britons trying to get home from Calais. They were deployed on 20 April to provide practical help and emotional support to Britons affected by the travel disruption caused by the volcanic ash cloud.
They are working as part of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) rapid deployment team.
June Rudman and Ola Rzepczynska, from the Red Cross emergency planning team in London, along with emergency response worker Janette Wilson-North and Debi Hanley, a psychotherapy and stress management specialist, are working in Calais.
Help and advice
Working alongside the French Red Cross, the team is checking the long queues to identify vulnerable individuals and groups – primarily children, the elderly and those with medical concerns.
They are offering hot drinks, emergency blankets and medical support when required. The team are also working with ferry staff to fast-track the elderly and those with health issues – and providing indoor shelter for children and one adult while another adult continues to queue for ferry tickets.
A doctor and French Red Cross medical staff are on standby in Calais, and the support team has contacted the Kent Health response team to let them know about those people who may require further help on arrival at Dover.
Martin Annis, head of emergency planning, said: “Our psychosocial teams are there to give help and advice to people trying to make their way home, and to offer them emotional support too.
"Sometimes things like not being able to pass messages to family back home or deal with practicalities can be distressing in a situation like this – and that’s the kind of assistance our teams can give.”
He added: “Our targeted support has worked well and, together with the drinks and blankets, has been a real morale booster for waiting passengers.”
In accordance with its role as an auxiliary to the public authorities in the humanitarian field, the Red Cross is responding at the request of the FCO, which is responsible for providing consular assistance to Britons overseas.
The Red Cross has trained volunteers on standby to offer practical help and emotional support to people affected by emergencies overseas. In previous deployments, psychosocial support teams have assisted Britons following Haiti’s earthquake and the terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008.