accessibility & help

Every crisis is personal

To the British Red Cross, every crisis is personal. From floods to loneliness, it's not the scale of the crisis that matters. Whoever you are, wherever you are, all we see is someone who needs our help - and we give it.

Discover the true stories of people we've helped in this ever-growing selection.

Our home was washed away"

Helen looked at her watch. Ten minutes was not enough time to gather up her life and make a run for it.

But after being evacuated, a tidal surge soon brought waves crashing down on the coastal community in Norfolk where Helen lives with her partner and children.

The family could only watch as their home was completely destroyed by the enormous waves.

"We lost everything. We lost our home, our business, all of our belongings – everything," says Helen.

Their static home was lifted high on the crest of a wave before it crashed back down to earth, snapping in two. All their ruined belongings were scattered in a nearby field.

We were totally bedraggled.
We must have been shell-shocked."

Traumatised and exhausted, the family suddenly found themselves rain-soaked and homeless in the middle of December.

They were feeling hopeless – until the British Red Cross volunteers arrived. They were laden with food parcels, bedding and hygiene packs for all the residents.

"We were totally bedraggled, out of our minds – I don't think we made any sense,” says Helen. "We must have been shell-shocked but they were so grounded and calm in the midst of this completely mad space.”

“Out of our minds”

The volunteers comforted the distraught couple, giving Helen and her family food and dry clothes. They also provided advice on the next steps to take.

As the flood waters receded, Helen’s family made plans to start again. The Red Cross stayed in touch to see if they needed any support.

"It felt like real care," says Helen. "That meant the world, it really did."

  • Help us support families like Helen's when disasters strike: donate to the Disaster Fund.

Scared to leave the house"

Peter’s stroke left him trapped in his own home.

Alone for days on end, time slowed down. Hours seemed like days.

Tick tock. Tick tock.

As the seconds crawled by, Peter's confidence slipped away.

“I was worried about leaving the house alone in case I had a fall,” he says. “I rarely ventured beyond the front door.  I ended up just looking at the same four walls, day in and day out.”

Tick tock. Tick tock.

“I was very isolated.”

Peter was desperate – until the British Red Cross heard he was in crisis. Our volunteers began to visit him regularly. 

“It was so nice to see another human being. Sometimes I could go days and days without seeing anyone at all.”

Together they began to take walks.

Left right, left right.

With every step Peter felt his confidence coming back.

“Having someone visit regularly really boosted my self-esteem. It was rock bottom before I started getting support from the Red Cross, but now my confidence has rocketed.”

Now Peter is building up to a walk into town.

Left right, left right.  

He wants to do it on his own.

“The truth is I wouldn’t have dreamt of something like that before the Red Cross came along.”

Hungry and thirsty for days"

Valerie and her two friends Julie-Ann and Julius have known each other for as long as they can remember. They played together, went to school together and shared birthdays together.

On 8 November 2013, they thought they were going to die together.

The friends braced themselves for the worst as Typhoon Haiyan tore through the Philippines. The vicious typhoon left 6,000 people dead and thousands injured. It ripped up roads and smashed down houses. Four million people had to abandon their homes.

When the storm had passed and we saw what happened, we were shocked,” said Julius.

No one knew what to do next.

Their city was in chaos. Trees and debris blocked the roads. Crowds of people were shouting and crying, trying to salvage what they could from the wreckage.

I hope it won't make us sick.
But we don't have any choice"

The friends urgently needed to find food and water for their families. They walked for hours until they found water trickling from a thin pipe into a muddy hollow in the ground.

Valerie said: “We don’t know where this water is coming from. I hope it won’t make us sick but we don’t have any choice.”

The Red Cross acted fast, setting up water stations and purification systems to help people like Valerie and her two friends collect clean water for their families.

The British Red Cross also sent vital supplies to help in the immediate aftermath – food parcels, blankets and tents to shelter people as they started to rebuild their homes.

This disaster is no longer in the news. But right now we're still there, helping people like Valerie to rebuild their lives.

We will not leave the Philippines until the crisis is well and truly over.

  • If you want more people to get vital help as soon as a crisis happens, please donate to our Disaster Fund. Just £5 could provide water purification tablets for 600 people.

I saved my baby son's life"

When Eddie was born it quickly became clear all was not well. The joy and excitement his parents had felt during the pregnancy suddenly changed to worry and trauma. They discovered that Eddie had a rare congenital heart defect, which meant he needed open heart surgery at just five days old.

Recovering well after the surgery, Eddie was allowed home a few weeks later. But when he awoke one night with a rare loud cry his parents knew something was seriously wrong. Within two minutes, he had stopped breathing and turned blue.

My instinct and training just took over.
I'm so grateful."

During the pregnancy, Eddie’s father, Ben, and his girlfriend had attended a British Red Cross first aid session at their local Mothercare store. So while his girlfriend called for an ambulance, Ben started resuscitating Eddie, impulsively remembering word by word the instructions from the Red Cross. 

"Then it happened: my instinct and training just took over,” says Ben.

"To my utter relief, it worked. Eddie started breathing again and was rushed to hospital.

"Later, we found out my son had suffered an angina attack, and were told that without our intervention he would no longer be with us. He needed two further operations to correct his rare condition – plus numerous other interventions to keep him going along the way – but our brave little man is still with us."

"I'm so grateful to the Red Cross for the role they played in helping me save my son’s life. Without them, Eddie may not be with us now."

  • Would you know what to do in a crisis? If you look after a baby or young children, book our baby and child first aid course. We can help you feel confident and ready to keep your family safe. 
  • You can also download our free baby and child first aid app for first aid skills at your fingertips.

We cannot go back"

When fighting broke out in South Sudan, John and his family had to flee for their lives.

“We left everything: food, our homes, animals – even our jobs," says John.

"Many people died back home and we lost family members.

"I do not know where my father is."

A long and difficult journey

The family made a long and difficult journey to the Alere refugee camp in Uganda, where conditions are cramped.

“Twenty-one of us sleep in two huts,” says John. "But we cannot return home until peace is restored.” 

I do not know where 
my father is."

The Red Cross has been providing clean water, food and shelter to people in need. Local volunteers visit the camp every day to give much needed assistance with first aid and hygiene. They listen to the residents who need to talk about their traumatic memories.

The British Red Cross has so far raised thousands of pounds to provide the refugees like John with vital supplies and shelter.

John watches his children playing in the earth. They have just been allocated their own plot of land. He plans to grow his own food to feed his family once more.

I got Ebola caring for my dying father"

Five days after being admitted to hospital, Saa’s father died. It was only after his death that medical staff realised he had been displaying the symptoms of Ebola.

The outbreak began in Guinea, in March, and has since spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Lack of knowledge and understanding about the disease meant that it spread quickly, particularly among health workers and those caring for the sick. This is exactly how Saa became infected - caring for his father.

Ebola is transmitted through the bodily fluids of an infected person and has an incubation period of three weeks.

“The countdown then started for me,” says Saa.

“After nine days I got fever. I went to the treatment centre, where I did an Ebola test. It was positive."

Saa’s body temperature came close to 40 degrees combined with diarrhoea and vomiting. In some cases, patients can experience both internal and external bleeding and the majority who catch Ebola will die.

Saa was treated with an oral rehydration treatment and intravenous fluids. “I felt so tired and uncomfortable, but with the treatment I started to feel better.”

I was stigmatised. People avoided me.
But they have learned to accept me."

Eventually Saa recovered and was tested three times before doctors discharged him.

Initially, people were overjoyed when he returned to his home village. But that delight soon gave way to stigma. There is a great deal of fear and rumour surrounding Ebola. Those who survive are often shunned, despite them holding a certificate saying they’ve recovered.

“I was stigmatised. Some people avoided me in the beginning but now, over time, they have learned to accept me.”

The British Red Cross has sent health workers to West Africa to support the fight against Ebola. Saa is now part of a Red Cross team of volunteers working to raise awareness of the disease.

"We need to educate people and increase the awareness. This is the key to stopping Ebola."

Behind every image in our TV advert is the true story of a person or family in crisis who have been helped by the Red Cross.

Some of the images of individuals have been changed but all the stories and quotes on this web page are real.