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Red Cross parcels reach 25 million from WWI to today

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The British Red Cross has supplied a mammoth 25 million food parcels since the First World War, and are commemorating the landmark at that same time as the 150th anniversary of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. This week, they talked to someone who benefited from their parcels 69 years ago.


David Isherwood, now 80, was 11 years old when he collected his 'lifesaving' food parcel from the SS Vega during the German occupation of Jersey during the Second World War. Yesterday, David travelled to the Red Cross Emergency Response Unit (ERU) in Bristol with his son, to see for himself how the contents of Red Cross relief parcels have changed over the years.


Along with his sister, mother and father, David experienced years of hunger during the war as the islanders lived on dwindling food supplies. David says: “To us kids, the occupation was a great adventure at first, but then I realised that it was difficult for our parents and as time went on food levels got shorter and shorter and I remember being very hungry. We were living on about 1,100 calories a day.”


“In all seriousness, the British Red Cross parcels saved our lives - we were desperately short of food. I lived in town and it was harder because we couldn’t grow anything ourselves. I remember going to school with a slice of raw swede for my lunch. The island hugely appreciated the parcels.”


“When the parcels arrived it was like Christmas and the treats inside were brilliant. I’d not had tinned salmon to eat for years and I can still remember the taste of the powdered milk – wonderful stuff.  There was chocolate as well, and it probably wasn’t very good compared to now, but it tasted great then.”


David joined local schoolchildren at the ERU, who were taught about the work that goes into distributing aid around the world and in the UK. They also heard from the international warehouse manager for the Bristol ERU who has been on up to 30 missions over his 22 years working for the Red Cross. John Cunningham was born in Kenya and started work with the Red Cross as a truck convoy worker delivering aid to neighbouring war-torn Somalia.


John said:“When you come in as a volunteer and witness communities that are on their knees – whether it is the Rwandan genocide or the tsunami in Indonesia, both of which have stayed in my mind due to the sheer devastation - the satisfaction that you glean from helping those communities and livelihoods is immeasurable.”


After meeting David, John said: “It’s gobsmacking to have someone the British Red Cross helped over 60 years ago standing in front of you – that’s when it really hits home, how wide-reaching the relief is. You have this image in your head of a multitude of people, but meeting David brings it down to that solitary image and that is very powerful.”


As part of the global Red Cross and Red Crescent humanitarian network, The British Red Cross helps millions of people around the world prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies, disasters and conflicts. You can find out more about leaving a legacy to help them continue this lifesaving work on the British Red Cross Charity Choice page.  


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