The Red Cross was celebrating the formal opening its refurbished and renovated new building, opposite the Cricket Field in George Town, which acts as headquarters, a hurricane shelter, and a thrift shop, on Wednesday 12 February.
Red Cross Director Jondo Obi outlined some of the Red Cross’s international principles, during a short ceremony outside the building which has stood there for more than 30 years, and was in urgent need of extensive renovation. “Those principles are, Humanity, impartiality, Neutrality, Independence, Voluntary Service, Unity, and Universality,” she said. “We are worldwide, and we have a network of 192 national Red Crosses. Our mission is always to protect life and health, while preserving human dignity. We are neutral, so we do not take sides in conflicts, or in politics. We are very unique, because under international law, the Geneva Conventions, we have a special, auxiliary status with all our respective governments. Some see this as just a building, but for us, we see this as the embodiment of community support,” she added.
The Red Cross was begun in 1961 by National Hero, Ms Ethel Cook Bodden, “There were certain disasters in the region, and she thought it would be a good idea, since she came from the UK,” Ms Obi said. In 1973 the first Red Cross Committee was begun. The Chairman was the late John Gray, and the secretary was Ms. Janilee Clifford, who is here with us today,” she said.
Red Cross Chairman Douglas Moffatt said: “After 30 years of service to Cayman, our building was in dire need of renovation and all-round improvement. We needed to bring it in line with current building codes, and we didn’t have adequate facilities to provide what we thought was a safe and humane refuge, during the Hurricane season, and most notably it was not accessible to persons with disabilities.”
Plans for renovation began in 2015, and work started in 2017. It was a big project, and would not have been possible without many people stepping up to the plate and helping, he said, not only by making donations, but also by donations of services; such as building and architectural services. There was a CI 600,000 budget for the renovations, in the end, he said, some of which was raised by the Shelter from the Storm campaign, run by the Red Cross.
Hon Tara Rivers said: “this is a community effort, and we celebrate the many contributions through cash or kind. The shelter is now a flagship emergency relief centre for the local area, and certainly the centre will provide the community with benefit for many years to come. These upgrades are made possible in part, due to the funding provided by the Government, and I thank Minister McTaggart for being here as well, representing the Government through the Ministry of Financial Services and Home Affairs.”
Inside the lovely new interior houses the thrift shop, which not only raises funds for the Red Cross but also provides people with a means of buying nice clothes, shoes and toys that they might otherwise find difficult to budget for. Upstairs is a hurricane shelter area, and was the scene of lots of photo-ops as well as refreshments.