Red Cross volunteer loves to lend a hand

For Red Cross volunteer Ian Gray, it all boils down to making a difference for people who need a helping hand.

'Red Cross plays a very important role as a first buffer in an emergency or disaster, helping turn people around when they are at their lowest. Letting them know they are not alone,' Ian says.

He has dedicated much of his spare time over the past 12 months to supporting people who were devastated by the Victorian floods in the first half of 2011.

Ian’s association with Red Cross has been a long one. He first came into contact with Red Cross 54 years ago when he did First Aid training and some volunteer work. Ten years ago, Ian retired and he decided to reconnect with Red Cross, committing to work as an Emergency Services volunteer, an area where he saw great need in his local community.

Now, Ian spends much of his time helping community members prepare for emergencies in east Gippsland, not far from the New South Wales border.

When the floods hit northern Victoria in early 2011, Ian and his wife took to the road, driving more than 600 kilometres from their home in Buchan to help out in Charlton, Kerang and other communities in northern and western Victoria affected by the floods. 

They were two of the more than 1300 Red Cross volunteers and staff who worked on flood relief and recovery in Victoria throughout the year. 

'The various Red Cross support teams played a very important role in helping people recover from the floods,' says Ian.

‘As I see it, everything indicates we are going to be facing a lot more natural disasters in the future. This means as a community we need people who are trained and experienced to help those who have been kicked in the guts by what has happened to them.’

Ian loves communicating with people. Before retiring, he worked in education around energy use and conservation for many years. Ian says he is delighted to put his people skills to good use assisting people who need a hand.

'We worked in the recovery centres and visited people on their properties. We were there to make contact with people impacted by the floods, provide them with support and let them know about what services are available.'

Ian says some of the stories of those people he has assisted will stay with him for the rest of his life. 

'I remember one farmer came into the recovery centre with his two daughters.  He was a big strapping bloke but as he walked in the door he just fell apart. Everything he had worked for, everything his grandfather and father had worked for, was under water. Life had hit him just once too often.

'I spent some time with him, made sure his daughters were OK, kept the family together and put him in touch with some professional support.

'When he left the recovery centre I actually saw him smiling again. It is times like that, when you’ve made a difference in someone’s life that makes it all worthwhile. Every Red Cross person involved in an emergency could tell you a similar story.'

Red Cross provides relief in times of crisis and care for people in need, assisting tens of millions of people around the world each year as well as caring for local communities in Australia and Asia Pacific. To find out how you can help Red Cross help others visit their website: