Memories of a Red Cross volunteer at Aberfan

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British Red Cross volunteers and others unload supplies from a truck at the time of the Aberfan disaster.

© Media Wales

Episode 3 of the new series of the Crown, which just launched on Netflix, focuses on the disaster in the small Welsh village of Aberfan. In this tragedy, an 800-foot, water-logged coal-tip slipped and fell 500 yards down a mountainside. It engulfed a local school, killing 116 children and 28 adults.

John Cole was one of hundreds of British Red Cross volunteers who helped the local community in Aberfan. Now, his daughter Anna shares his story.

My Mum would say how Dad changed after Aberfan. I recall her saying how he came home after his time there and just sat, staring, dazed and haunted by what he had experienced.

John's Red Cross uniform, now many years old.

John’s Red Cross uniform

Dad was on the scene following the Aberfan disaster in 1966. He was a long standing and proud British Red Cross volunteer, and at just 21, he was one of the youngest to attend. To see the events of that day and the aftermath depicted in The Crown was harrowing and it gave me a sense of what my Dad would have seen and experienced, at such a young age.

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How one volunteer is bringing a little warmth after the Doncaster flood

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A group of emergency services workers pull an inflatable raft carrying a man to safety through a street covered in water in the Doncaster flood in Yorkshire.

Emergency help: Doncaster flood

A week on from the night that brought widespread flooding to parts of Yorkshire and the East Midlands, one volunteer tells us about his work in flood-hit Doncaster.

Looking back at a busy week volunteering in Doncaster with the Red Cross, one moment stands out.

It was the look on the face of a young lad whose birthday it was. He’d come in to a rest centre with his brother and mum and they were all a bit bewildered and upset at having to leave home.

Someone from the council had arranged for a prescription of the boys’ asthma inhalers – in the family’s hurry to leave they had left them at home. The Red Cross went down to the local supermarket and picked the prescription up. But, as we’d got wind it was the little lad’s birthday, we thought it’d be nice to get him a cake while we were there.

When we came back we lit the candles and the whole centre stopped to sing happy birthday. The look of sheer joy his face brightened up a day that he could have otherwise remembered only for what went wrong.

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Make your wheelchair the reason you’re fit – not the excuse

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Jordan Jarrett-Bryan plays wheelchair basketball.

Jordan Jarrett-Bryan in action

Jordan Jarrett-Bryan is a former Paralympic GB wheelchair basketball player and sports reporter, Channel 4 News

I struggle to remember a time when I wasn’t active. I’ve always been into sport or at least physical activity, mainly because I’ve always been a hyperactive and competitive person.

Running, jumping, playing football, basketball, rounders: all were things I did daily when I was a boy. It was a huge cause of being an active and healthy young boy, but more importantly a happy boy.

I was nowhere near the fastest in my class at primary school – I remember running made me the happiest, though. As someone with a disability, I can also remember not ever being too conscious about the fact I had an artificial leg.

There may have been times, it may have been uncomfortable, but I refused to not take part in sports.

I don’t use a wheelchair for everyday use, but getting used to one when I first started playing wheelchair basketball was weirdly liberating.

Playing a sport without running and jumping was different, but I was still fast, powerful, moving. Active. It joined two of three most important elements of sports – winning, health and enjoyment.

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Why Bosnia urgently needs our help before winter

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In Bosnia, a group of men, who are migrants, asylum seekers and refugees from other countries, stand in a line to enter a Red Cross tent.

When we think of Europe’s refugee crisis, it’s easy to conjure up images of camps in Greece or Northern France. But Bosnia and Herzegovina is grappling with its own migrant crisis that very few people are talking about.

With other countries imposing stricter border controls, Bosnia is now one of the last hopes for refugees and migrants wanting to enter the EU. As a result, more than 23,000 people are thought to have arrived here since the beginning of the year.

Having just spent two weeks in Bosnia’s Una-Sana Canton region, I have seen first-hand the conditions that refugees and migrants living here are facing. Each day I witnessed something more shocking than the last.

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Why a lack of support is putting the most vulnerable at risk of trafficking  

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A young woman, who could be a survivor of trafficking and modern slavery, sits alone on a staircase outside a building.

Most people know the British Red Cross as an international aid organisation, supporting people across the globe affected by poverty, drought, tsunamis or hurricanes. What few people realise is that we also support victims of trafficking and modern slavery in the UK.

This largely involves providing people with clothing, food and emotional support immediately after they leave exploitation. But over the past year we have also been testing a model of long-term support to counteract the lack of government support available to survivors of trafficking.

Until recently, once someone is recognised by the Home Office as having been trafficked, they were entitled to only 45 days of basic accommodation and financial aid. After this period all support stops, but we know that survivors are still a long way from recovery.

Through our front-line work we see the affect that this lack of support has on people. It can leave them facing poverty, struggling to cope with complex mental health needs and – most worryingly – at risk of falling back into the hands of their traffickers.

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Photographer focuses on a different type of food story: chronic hunger in the Sahel

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To mark World Food Day, the British Red Cross partnered with the food photographer Yuki Sugiura. She usually shoots with top chefs on the London food scene such as Yotam Ottolenghi and Thomasina Miers (co-founder of Wahaca).

But this year, Yuki turned her lens on a a crisis that is rarely talked about – chronic hunger in the Sahel, a region of Africa that borders the Sahara. Across the Sahel, 7 million people don’t know where their next meal is coming from and 1.5 million children are acutely malnourished.

This is already one of the already of the driest regions on earth, and temperatures could rise by several degrees by the end of the century. Climate change, environmental degradation, extreme poverty, conflict and growing populations mean that millions are overwhelmed.

But the British Red Cross, with the support of players from the People’s Postcode Lottery, is helping to break the cycle of hunger in the Sahel.

For World Food Day Yuki brought a new perspective to the issue – comparing the two worlds. Her of portraits  food, cookware and portraits from Niger, a country in the Sahel, tell a very different food story from the one she is used to telling.

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MapSwipe 2.0: How a mobile app can help save lives

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Three people smile as they work at laptop computers at a mapathon sponsored by Missing Maps.

A Missing Maps mapathon, © Mile91/Ben Langdon

In 2015, MapSwipe began as a solution to a complex question: how do we better identify where communities and people are, allowing mapping to be more efficient and effective?

Using a simple mobile app, volunteers can swipe through a series of satellite images, tapping in areas where they find features.

MapSwipe can be used anywhere, at any time, which provides an easy access point for individuals to contribute to the Missing Maps project without being restricted to their laptop.

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An hour in the life of a charity shop volunteer

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British Red Cross charity shop volunteers Sue, Mellissa and Rachel stand with their arms around each other .

British Red Cross charity shop volunteers: Sue, Mellissa (centre) and Rachel© British Red Cross

As a recent volunteer at my local British Red Cross charity shop, I want to share my experience. Above all, I want to encourage others to join me in volunteering for a fantastic cause!

Like many, I work full time so finding the time to volunteer can be challenging.

Fortunately, the British Red Cross is extremely accommodating and there is no minimum commitment time-wise. For example, I volunteered on my lunch hour at my local furniture and electrical shop in Redhill, Surrey.

As a passionate writer, I also blog for the British Red Cross. Through my writing, I help to connect readers to the cause and what the British Red Cross does.

I have always loved writing, and it’s great that I can use my passion to contribute towards something so important.

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