Bermuda Red Cross History

The Bermuda Red Cross was formed on 1st August, 1950 as a Branch of the British Red Cross Society. Originally a Nursing Reserve, it has grown over the years to provide other community based programmes focusing on the most vulnerable. 

In 1965 when the new hospital opened, Bermuda Red Cross was asked by the Bermuda Hospitals Board to manage the Blood Bank. In Bermuda all blood is provided free to both residents and visitors. In 2009, Bermuda Red Cross and the Bermuda Hospitals Board jointly announced a move to paid nursing and technical staff in the Blood Donor Clinic in the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, with on-call volunteer support from the Bermuda Red Cross for emergencies. The decision was made by both bodies due to accreditation requirements and a gradual decline in the number of qualified volunteers. The Bermuda Red Cross continues to promote blood donation in the community.

In 1967 we started the Hospital Equipment Rental Service. This provides all types of medical equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, commodes as well as children’s equipment for use outside of the hospital. To date we have 850 pieces of equipment and serve some 910 customers. Excess supplies of equipment are given to senior’s homes and those unable to afford to rent much needed equipment. In January, 2003 we relocated this service to the main Red Cross property where there is now ample storage for the equipment. In 2019 we started to loan wheelchairs to those who needed them for 1 day and this has proven to be very convenient to our customer base. Due to the pandemic and our ageing volunteers, our volunteer base has been reduced considerably. There are currently 4 dedicated volunteers who are able to assist in this area.

In 1970, to mark the 100th Anniversary of the British Red Cross, we started our Centennial Transport Service. Volunteers using their own cars provide free transportation to the elderly, needy, handicapped and blind. We drive to doctor’s offices, the laboratory, X-ray, Dialysis, and physiotherapy. Again, due to the pandemic and our ageing volunteers, our volunteer base has been reduced considerably. There are only 4 or 5 volunteers who are able to assist with drives.

In 1972, we started the Golden Hour Club, a senior citizen’s group that meets every two weeks for fellowship and entertainment at Peace Lutheran Church Hall. They have entertainment provided by the various school choirs and bands and enjoy an annual picnic in the Botanical Gardens. 4 dedicated persons assist the group. There are between 30 – 40 seniors who attend the Wednesday functions. Since the pandemic, they have been unable to meet due to the stricter COVID regulations.

In the area of Disaster Management, our role is to assist with providing supplies in the event of an extensive natural disaster and also to assist the King Edward Memorial Hospital in Mass Casualty disasters. In 2012, we commenced a Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) programme that actively takes us into the community, collaborating with many organizations in order to assist with reducing risk at community level. Our approach to Disaster Management is to empower communities to take charge of their own recovery. Preparedness and recovery is vital to any disaster management plan. Disaster Risk Reduction helps communities identify the most significant hazards in their environment and to understand the patterns of vulnerability to them.  We advise communities on how to devise ways to manage the hazards and reduce vulnerability. Through this process we are empowering communities to become more resilient and be less reliant on others.

As a globally trusted organization, we are a member of the Emergency Measures Organization sub-committee.

Historically we have come to the aid of victims of natural disasters around the world. If an appeal is launched by the International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies or from the country itself, we will also launch an appeal to the Bermuda public seeking financial assistance. To date just under $7 million has been raised in the community through the Bermuda Red Cross.

We also provide Psychosocial First Aid and First Aid support at the government shelter at Cedarbridge during hurricanes, and if needed, distribute Red Cross relief supplies and clothing for the unsheltered population, provide family tracing, communications support, and personnel support in a mass casualty event, and launch appeals as needed. To date we have 42 volunteers who are prepared to be on call to provide mental first aid to families of victims of vehicular or anti-social incidents. In addition, in 2017 we started offering Family Emergency Planning workshops and have reached close to 600 persons.  During the pandemic in 2020, we were extremely active in assisting the Ministry of Health with contact tracing of all persons arriving on Island between 17 March – end of July, delivery of 270,000 masks to the frontline essential workers, essential service staff and volunteers, seniors’ homes, seniors’s groups and the vulnerable communities in which we work.

We are committed to provide Adult, Infant and Children CPR, AED (Automated External Defibrillator) and Basic First Aid Training for the community. Early in 1993 we began teaching the American Red Cross Community First Aid & Safety programme. Under a unique agreement with the American Red Cross we have been authorized to issue American Red Cross First Aid & CPR certificates. To date we have trained over 25,000 people in AED, first aid and CPR using an average of 14 instructors. Since 1997 we have trained close to 2,000 students ranging from the ages of 12 – 16 in our Babysitting Course. We also offer AED (Automated External Defibrillator) training to companies that have purchased the machines through us. We have deployed 184 machines to business, churches, sports centers, schools and private residences in the community. Additionally, in 2018 we started a Mobile First Aid service for smaller charitable events that do not require an ambulance which has amounted to 8 – 12 events a year.

In 1994 we started having dinner/dances with the themes from countries around the world. These dinners have been both very successful as a fundraiser as well as “friendraiser”. To date, the proceeds from the dinners have netted the Bermuda Red Cross $1,753,573 and have assisted in increasing our profile and volunteer base. Over the years we have expanded our fundraising events into many other areas. In addition, we have held quiz nights, karaoke, scavenger hunts, premier movie nights and have collaborated with other non-profit organizations on fundraising events.

Our long-term need has been for a headquarters building. This goal was achieved in May, 1995 when we purchased “Charleswood” at #9 Berry Hill Road, Paget. We occupy the ground level with offices, training rooms and storage facilities. Currently, we rent one of the apartments and the cottage that helps to cover maintenance costs on the property. As of 31st March, 2000 we were debt free and own the building outright. Another campaign was started in 2002 for $1 million for the building of the purpose-built facility for the Hospital Equipment Rental department. At the end of 2013, we paid off our remaining loan.

In 2011, a decision was made to utilize one of our apartments above the main building as a Thrift Shop. This new service, called the Upstairs Closet, opened its doors on 4th March, 2011.  Volunteers, staff and contractors spent many hours creating a pleasant and welcoming environment. The official opening took place at our Volunteer Appreciation Day on Friday, 6th May, when we had Sir Richard & Lady Gozney cut the ribbon. We sell clothing, footwear & accessories for men, women and children. The Thrift Shop is open Tuesday, Friday & Saturday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.  Drop offs are Monday, Tuesday, Friday & Saturday. We have one full-time staff person working tirelessly with 18 volunteers. Excess unsold stock is donated to local churches, other agencies working with vulnerable persons in communities & the unsheltered population, as well as to individuals or charities that travel to needy areas around the globe. We have been thrilled with the reception of the Thrift Shop and strive to do our part in helping those less fortunate in the community. Our goal for this valuable service is to move from 2nd floor of the Gamble building to another location on the property, which will give seniors and mothers with young children more accessibility as well as providing a larger shop space and a better organized sorting space.