Material gifts : How to combine solidarity and responsibility

The Monaco Red Cross is recognised for the tremendous involvement of its volunteers who sort out every day the items and clothes donated by the population and redistribute them to needy persons, or to raise funds for solidarity projects. Is it possible to really give everything? Testimonies and explanations.

Every day, for more than a half century, volunteers of the social department of the Monaco Red Cross have given a second life to clothes and other items. The same ballet repeats itself any time of the day: cars stop, people leave bags or cartons, volunteers pick them up. Every day of the week, by prior appointment, families and isolated people are able to dress properly. On Thursday, especially vulnerable people come Avenue de la Costa.

The “cloak room”, as we call it, operates exclusively thanks to a motivated team of volunteers, whose work load and conditions are similar to those of regular employees. And sometimes, they have their share of surprises: “We only accept clothes that are washed, that do not have any tears or stains, and some useful items in good condition, washed, wrapped and ready to use. It may seem logical, but unfortunately we sometimes receive dirty clothes, rolled into a ball, sometimes damaged or with holes, broken, incomplete and useless items. Our role is to select everything and sort out by type, size and sex so as to better meet the requirements of vulnerable people, who deserve to maintain their human dignity” they testify in unison.

Also, companies do not hesitate contacting the Red Cross for stationery, office furniture or computer equipment. However, “we sometimes find ourselves with a stock of equipment just “left”, without any prior contact or agreement. This creates great logistic difficulties to redirect this equipment to the rubbish dump, or to other partners. A precise e-mail list of the equipment enables us to organise the redistribution, in the area or even elsewhere”, David, the attendant, explains.

The international humanitarian section takes over the needs of the African national societies of which it is a partner. For instance, computers need to be reformatted and be 5 years old maximum for us to be able to offer them to those who are in need. Claude, in charge of the programmes, comments: “We tend to believe that in Africa, you need everything, whatever the condition. This is not true! Transportation often costs a lot more than buying locally, which, moreover, contributes to the local economy. Computers are obsolete more quickly there than here, because of the weather conditions and the power cuts. Moreover, these countries accumulate the waste of the electronic devices we sent them, thinking we did the right thing…” To combine solidarity with responsibility: this is what is at stake.

Throughout the year, items are also collected and sorted out for the yearly clearance sale. Whereas the social role of the Red Cross is well known, the general public is also crazy about that event where it can find many items, clothes, accessories, jewellery and furniture at unbeatable prices. The funds collected enable to fund solidarity projects in developing countries. In 2012, a dispensary in Togo will be rehabilitated thanks to the mobilisation of donors and volunteers.

You want to renew your wardrobe? You are moving or you wish to clear out your home, your company? “Do not hesitate to ask questions: we are able to advise and guide you”, Annick, at the secretariat, concludes.

ou may contact the Monaco Red Cross at 97 97 68 22 / redcross@croix-rouge.mc.

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