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Ready and able to save lives

Meet Jay. He's the first line of defence against fire in his neighbourhood.

Wednesday June 29, 2016

Jay Martinez
Red Cross volunteer Jay Martinez at his home in North Daang Hari, Manila. Photo: Australian Red Cross/Cheryl Gagalac

Imagine: you live in a neighbourhood where houses are built haphazardly on top of each other.

Thin laneways snake around the buildings, most too narrow for a car to fit. A hanging forest of electrical cables, illegally installed, hangs overhead, threatening to collapse at any moment. 

And then fire breaks out. What do you do? 

This question preoccupies Jay Martinez, a Philippine Red Cross volunteer living in North Daang Hari, nestled in metropolitan Manila. Jay has cerebral palsy and is a strong advocate for people with disability in his community.  

It all began with a fire two streets from Jay's home. "It started with a stove left on. The wind picked it up and almost 50 houses were damaged. I went there and tried to help people, to keep them calm. I stopped some of them from going back into the fire to save their possessions."  

That led Jay to join Red Cross. 'It's simple; if somebody needs help, I want to be able to provide it."  

Philippine Red Cross aims to have trained volunteers like Jay in every community in the country. They will be the first line of defence in a disaster: whether house fires, the floods resulting from intense rain, the frequent cyclones that batter the country, or the ever-present threat of an earthquake that would devastate Manila. 

With support from Australian Red Cross, volunteers in Manila are being trained in first aid, evacuation, search and rescue and other emergency operations. 

Jay in the street

Jay has first-hand experience of the challenges that people with disability face in emergencies: stairs, inaccessible evacuation routes, and simply being forgotten by their neighbours. But while he's working with Red Cross to address those problems, there's another message he wants to make loud and clear. 

"You need to look at what a person is capable of, not just what disabilities they have," he says. "If our families need first aid, we can help with that. If we can't rescue people we can help with crowd control; we can monitor CCTV cameras." 

Jay looks forward to a long future with Red Cross.  

"I want to recruit more volunteers, including persons with disability, to help each other. Red Cross will not leave us; they will always be here."

Want to volunteer with Red Cross? Check out current opportunities

To help in times of emergency:
Every donation we receive for our Disaster Relief and Recovery work helps Australian Red Cross continue to be there for local and international communities struggling in the wake of a disaster. Please donate now