volunteers, swiss army knives of the red cross


Help move fragile people, give them moral comfort…

French Red Cross

“Our volunteers are internally trained and receive government-issued diplomas, including first aid and first aid,” explains Anthony Chapsal, who in civilian life is director of administration and logistics for a spa company. Her colleague Solen works as a childcare assistant, “but we also have accountants, garbage collectors, gardeners…,” the thirty-year-old girl clarifies. “We are warned during events such as concerts, and we must evaluate emergency measures and necessary funds. And then there is the emergency part,” adds Anthony Chapsal.

Evacuate fragile people

The emergency for them was caused on Tuesday, July 12, by the fires of La Teste and Landiras. The prefecture mobilized Red Cross volunteers to reinforce their counterparts in the Gironde. Most of them worked in one-day shifts, but some remained in place for several days. “On Thursday we were called to La Teste to participate in the evacuation of the city of Caso. With our vehicles, we can transport frail people, including residents of nursing homes, and get them to a safe place. Some required medical escort. »

At the reception points, Red Cross volunteers no longer counted the number of steps taken to see everyone.


At the reception points, Red Cross volunteers no longer counted the number of steps taken to see everyone.

French Red Cross

Other volunteers took care of the reception center or group of evacuees in La Brede, such as Anthony Chapsal, or the temporary accommodation center in La Teste for Solene Mengeno. Psychological support was also provided there: “We talk with people over a cup of coffee, assess the basic needs of people who have lost their homes (which also happens during a flood), whether they need medicines. »

People did not know for how long they were leaving their homes.

“People didn’t know for how long they were leaving their homes, how they were going to find their home,” Solen Mengeno explains. For those who were evacuated from campsites, it was less serious, even if they forfeited their vacation. In Caso, as in Landir, people were afraid for their homes, for their animals (some were able to take a hamster or a goldfish with them!). They needed to be talked to in order to calm them down, to be at least present in the room without disturbing them. These were activities that were physically and emotionally intense, and at the end of the day we were no longer counting steps on pedometers because the placement centers were huge…”

Contingency loans

The President of the Senate, Gérard Larcher, arrived to greet their actions in the Gironde.


The President of the Senate, Gérard Larcher, arrived to greet their actions in the Gironde.

French Red Cross

And what motivates these volunteers? “For me, it’s readiness for the unexpected,” explains Anthony Chapsal. You never know what you will face and how you will be able to react to problems and adapt. Whether the people we care about are party goers, motocross riders or evacuees, we need to take care of their health. »

The people we meet say thank you. It’s a bit like our salary…

“I appreciate the diversity of people we will meet,” says Solen Mengeno. The Red Cross has volunteers ranging in age from 16 to 80, and a very diverse range of activities, training that gives us confidence. On fires, I learned how to manage teams, how to manage the press. We may make mistakes, but we are always given a chance. And the people we meet, with rare exceptions, say thank you. It’s a bit like our salary…”

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