Monday, February 25, 2008

The Red Cross in Sibu 1962, Red Crescent Today

It is rather interesting that many people did not realise that the Red Cross was only started in 1962 in Sibu. The initiation was propelled by the Great Flood of Sarawak of Dec-1962 and Jan 1963.

Through out Dect 1962, Girl Guides, Sea Scouts and Boys Scouts which were then very well established had been packing boxes of clothes for the flood victims. As a young girl guide then I was very starry eyed and inspired. Ladies like Mrs. Griffin, Mrs. Wong Muk Foo, Mrs.Dr. Wong Soon Kai were leading the women in the packing !!

At that time, a lot of money was also raised from the very generous public in Sibu. I remember the radio also broadcast very encouraging speeches from the dignitaries.

The Red Cross was well initiated by the then nursing sisters who trained the local volunteers (many came from the Youth Club and Women's Institute) and I remember the nursing sisters wearing their lovely head wear which flipped delightfully in the wind. Several local ladies were sent for training too.

What was very painful in those years was that blood donation was very limited and many people continued to have to buy blood for any operation which was not sponsored by the government, if I remember correctly, with due respect to all the helpful foreign and local doctors.

When the Malaysian Government took over the Red Cross and renamed it Red Crescent, all organisation came under Kuala Lumpur and I thought that many events were under very capable hands. The society became very vigorous and more and more Sibu volunteers came forward to help. So when any disaster struck, emergency response was available and aid was quickly organized. The idea that voluntary services should come from local people became a more readily acceptable one. In the colonial days, most local people had left everything to the "government", meaning, the Civil Servants.

When my mother had her operation we had to pay 700 ringgit for a pint of blood to replace the blood she used as she was a private patient and a non government servant. We were so grateful to our uncle, Henry Lim, a frequent blood donor,who donated a pint. Thus my mother's life was saved. And that was in 1972.

Today, the Red Crescent has come a long way and blood is always available and free in the hospital. No one need to die unnecessarily because of blood shortage, or because he does not have the money to buy blood.

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