Tuesday June 14, 2005
Darwin aid worker Mary Ellen Fitzpatrick, 28, heads to tsunami-devastated Sri Lanka later this week for six-months with a message for Australians - supporting tsunami-affected communities is a long haul operation likely to last up to a decade.
Ms Fitzpatrick's years of experience as a logistician will be put to good use to ensure relief supplies needed to build schools, health care centres and thousands of homes get to where they are needed so that Red Cross can empower vulnerable people, restore hope as well as dignity.
'This is my first humanitarian mission with Red Cross. It's a big challenge,' Ms Fitzpatrick said.
'The Red Cross is arguably the largest humanitarian organisation in the world with decades of experience in disaster management and recovery. And this is the largest relief and rehabilitation operation of our time. It's a massive task to rebuild shattered lives and livelihoods likely to take many years. But we're committed to improving the lives of vulnerable people and I am proud to play my part in helping our neighbours who have suffered such terrible losses in places such as Sri Lanka and Indonesia.'
Here in Australia the Red Cross raised $105 million, of which $24 million has so far been contributed towards the international relief effort of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. This and other contributions has enabled us to reach more than 840,000 people with vital aid and support, including food, medical assistance, safe water, shelter and clothing. And it is estimated by the end of 2005 we will have assisted more than one million. A good start by any measure.
Today, some 400 expatriate staff including 23 from Australian Red Cross continue to get aid where it is needed most. At least 22,000 Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers from national societies in tsunami-affected countries join them.
Back home in Darwin, Ms Fitzpatrick has been a Red Cross volunteer for one year. During that period, she was a regular weekend volunteer with Telecross a nation-wide Red Cross service that seeks to check on people's well-being and offer reassurance as well as friendship to vulnerable Australians.