Francesca is only 20 years old, but her determination to help her community goes beyond what one would expect of a busy Otago University student.

After joining Red Cross to help out with fundraising activities, she was quickly inspired to do more and explored other activities within the organisation.

“I wanted to be more involved with Red Cross and its core values, the very reason why it was created in the first place – I wanted to get in the heart of it, so I joined the local Disaster Welfare and Support Team in Dunedin,” explains Francesca.

Our disaster response volunteers support affected communities in an emergency. They train all year around in first aid, ground-level rescue, psychosocial first aid, welfare support, radio communications, and other specialist tasks.

“Joining the Disaster Welfare Support Team has been a huge help in gaining more confidence, connecting with people from different cultures and background, and doing new things,” says Francesca.

“For example, it’s given me the confidence to stand up in front of people and practice what I know. Or sometimes say ‘I don’t know this’ and ask for help, which is very important.”

Every Thursday night, Francesca is a facilitator for YEPP – Red Cross’ Youth in Emergency Preparedness Programme, where she gets to share skills gained as a disaster response volunteer with young people, as well as gaining new ones such as leadership and teaching. 

Francesca being securely attached to a stretcher during a YEPP exercise with young people.

Francesca is also kept busy through her involvement with O-Red, the New Zealand Red Cross group of Otago University.

“O-Red is nice as I get to connect with my own age group and be with people driven to help their community,” says Francesca.

One of the activities O-Red runs in Dunedin is ‘Project Mermaid’ – a swimming session in a private pool for women. It was initially for former refugees but today, any women and children under 5 can join. The university group fundraises during the year to cover parts of the hiring cost.

“We set up a place where women can feel comfortable, safe and confident, when swimming or learning to swim. I love this project,” explains Francesca.

Throughout her various volunteer roles with Red Cross, Francesca has also made new friends.

“I love how I’ve really found a family in Red Cross – there are so many different people in all different area of Red Cross doing their own thing and their own projects, but you’re all connected by this one will to commit and do something different.”

Francesca has an ongoing commitment to inspire more people to become volunteers and be part of her Red Cross family.

“Red Cross is a great place to volunteer – anyone can find something they like. Red Cross is so multifaceted, no matter what you want to do, there is a place for you to help out,” says Francesca.

Francesca among her Red Cross family - the Dunedin Disaster Welfare and Support Team.

Get involved

If you’re feeling inspired by Francesca’s dedication to help her community, have a look at our volunteer opportunities – there are many different ways you can get involved. You’ll meet new people, gain new skills and do good all at the same time.