"Joining the British Red Cross has been life enhancing"
After a personal crisis, Christine wanted to give back. Here, she describes how volunteering for the British Red Cross has opened up new experiences, friendships and work opportunities.
Last updated 6 June 2023
“I have the best job in the world”
Many of our volunteers want to give back after a personal crisis, like Christine.
It was January 2020 when Christine’s son Ryan, 25, became gravely ill with a mystery illness.
“He was 25 at the time and a tall, strong, fit cricket player. But all his internal organs shut down and he went into an induced coma”, she said. "In hindsight, it must have been Covid."
Little was known about the virus at the time, so it was only through the sheer hard work of the NHS that Ryan came back home three months later.
Christine couldn't express enough gratitude to the doctors, nurses and therapists who saved Ryan’s life. So, she decided to give back through volunteering.
Within a week, she was in the Hillington West branch with dozens of other British Red Cross Community Reserve Volunteers, packing food parcels for people who were shielding.
"We often saw the same service users, so we’d build up a rapport with them. Everyone was so lovely and so appreciative when they saw us coming in our hi-vis vests. People would phone or write in to say thank you and their comments would be displayed at the Hillington office – a wall of appreciation."
It was an emotional and challenging time – Christine and her fellow volunteers delivered thousands of food parcels in the first few months of lockdown. But she was struck by the sheer ‘joyous camaraderie’ and support of her Red Cross team.
I think volunteering through that first lockdown is something that will live with us all. It was a phenomenal crusade and an amazing experience to be part of.
Three years on, and Christine hasn't looked back.
Last year, as an emergency response volunteer, she chaperoned Ukrainian children living on a cruise ship in Glasgow to and from school every day. Christine had to overcome language barriers and gain their trust rapidly.
“There were 450 children on board. The majority had come with their mothers and left their fathers back home, fighting. Many of their homes and schools had been completely destroyed", she said.
"First and foremost, I had to learn the children’s names and gain their trust. They were terrified of being shipped away on a strange bus to a new school, away from their parents."
She did this by using translator apps to say ‘good morning, children’ in Ukrainian, Russian and Arabic. Playing YouTube clips and cartoons on her phone also went a long way.
“Before long, they’d happily greet me in the mornings. I'd update their mothers on how they got on, whether they'd had a little wobble during their day at school.
"One of the mothers was a beautiful knitter; she knitted me a little dog that sits in the Hillington office."
"I can feed my children tonight"
Now, Christine and her colleagues are supporting more families in Glasgow, this time through the cost-of-living crisis.
"We’re sending out emergency food parcels again. It’s a one-stop referral, so if a health or social worker can’t find the person a hot meal anywhere else, they come to us.
"Over the last five months we’ve delivered over 1,400 food parcels. We have standard parcels but if there are any extra needs - formula milk or nappies or toiletries - then we’ll make up bespoke parcels."
She describes the joy, relief and appreciation from service users as 'humbling'.
"People say things like, 'Thank goodness I can feed my children tonight. We can't thank you enough. We don't know what we'd have done without you.' When you hear that kind of thing every day, it gives you a wee boost."
Christine also gets a boost from the colleagues all around her. She's so glad she signed up as a community reserve volunteer back in 2020. She says:
Joining the British Red Cross has been life-enhancing. I love what I do. I've made some wonderful friendships, met some fabulous service users and partner organisations.
"I had that wee bit of time to give back in 2020 and now, at 56, I'm starting a new job with the British Red Cross. I’m going to be an Emergency Response Officer in Edinburgh. I’ve got the best job in the world!”
Give volunteering a go
Christine says that volunteers have an 'inner kindness, an inner strength'. Sound like you?
If you’d like to support your local community, we need volunteers nationwide. Just search for roles near you.
You might also like...
Emergencies in the UK
We respond to an emergency in the UK every four hours. People are at the heart of what we do. If you’re inspired by what you’re reading on Stories, please consider donating to make sure we’re ready to spring into action.Donate