accessibility & help

Every crisis is personal

To the British Red Cross, every crisis is personal. From floods to loneliness, it's not the scale of the crisis that matters. Whoever you are, wherever you are, all we see is someone who needs our help - and we give it.

Discover a few real-life stories below and sign up to our emails to hear more personal stories and get our latest news.

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Scared to leave the house"

Peter’s stroke left him trapped in his own home.

Alone for days on end, time slowed down. Hours seemed like days.

Tick tock. Tick tock.

As the seconds crawled by, Peter's confidence slipped away.

“I was worried about leaving the house alone in case I had a fall,” he says. “I rarely ventured beyond the front door.  I ended up just looking at the same four walls, day in and day out.”

Tick tock. Tick tock.

“I was very isolated.”

Peter was desperate – until the British Red Cross heard he was in crisis. Our volunteers began to visit him regularly. 

“It was so nice to see another human being. Sometimes I could go days and days without seeing anyone at all.”

Together they began to take walks.

Left right, left right.

With every step Peter felt his confidence coming back.

“Having someone visit regularly really boosted my self-esteem. It was rock bottom before I started getting support from the Red Cross, but now my confidence has rocketed.”

Now Peter is building up to a walk into town.

Left right, left right.  

He wants to do it on his own.

“The truth is I wouldn’t have dreamt of something like that before the Red Cross came along.”

Old man in a wheelchair
Old man speaks to a British Red Cross volunteer at home

Hungry and thirsty for days"

Valerie and her two friends Julie-Ann and Julius have known each other for as long as they can remember. They played together, went to school together and shared birthdays together.

On 8 November 2013, they thought they were going to die together.

The friends braced themselves for the worst as Typhoon Haiyan tore through the Philippines. The vicious typhoon left 6,000 people dead and thousands injured. It ripped up roads and smashed down houses. Four million people had to abandon their homes.

When the storm had passed and we saw what happened, we were shocked,” said Julius.

No one knew what to do next.

Their city was in chaos. Trees and debris blocked the roads. Crowds of people were shouting and crying, trying to salvage what they could from the wreckage.

I hope it won't make us sick.
But we don't have any choice"

The friends urgently needed to find food and water for their families. They walked for hours until they found water trickling from a thin pipe into a muddy hollow in the ground.

Valerie said: “We don’t know where this water is coming from. I hope it won’t make us sick but we don’t have any choice.”

The Red Cross acted fast, setting up water stations and purification systems to help people like Valerie and her two friends collect clean water for their families.

The British Red Cross also sent vital supplies to help in the immediate aftermath – food parcels, blankets and tents to shelter people as they started to rebuild their homes.

This disaster is no longer in the news. But right now we're still there, helping people like Valerie to rebuild their lives.

We will not leave the Philippines until the crisis is well and truly over.

Man climbs over rubbish heap created in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan
A boat wreck amid rubbish after Typhoon Haiyan
  • If you want more people to get vital help as soon as a crisis happens, please donate to our Disaster Fund. Just £5 could provide water purification tablets for 600 people.

I felt I couldn't go on"


Kathy was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Her kidney failure, due to diabetes, meant she needed dialysis treatment three times a week, and she was slowly going blind.

The 64-year-old, from Llandudno, recalled: “I was at my lowest point – I was basically ready to die.”

Luckily Kathy was referred to the British Red Cross by a social worker who recognised she was in trouble. Within days, volunteer Rebecca arrived to give Kathy the support she desperately needed.

“I wouldn’t be here today without Rebecca. She brought the whole world back to me.”

Rebecca started making weekly visits to Kathy to enjoy a cup of tea and biscuits, and talk through her ongoing difficulties.

“I realise now that I needed someone to talk to,” says Kathy. “At first, I just cried and cried, and all I talked about was dying and putting things in order.

She brought the whole world
back to me"

“But Rebecca was always so positive and would say: ‘I’ll come again next week, so we’ll talk more then’. It gave me something to look forward to. I was very low, but Rebecca kept turning up week after week and was such a help.

“When she came by a few days after I had an eye operation, I realised that, for the first time, I could see her properly – it was a revelation. At first I just acted as normal and didn’t say anything. She helped me down the steps into my garden, and we had a coffee and chat as usual.

“Then after about ten minutes, I suddenly said: ‘That’s a lovely colour you’re wearing today, Rebecca’. Her face was a picture!”

With her increased confidence, Kathy has finally learned to relish life once again.

“I can’t put into words how grateful I am to Rebecca and the Red Cross. Before I met her, I felt that I couldn’t go on, but she made me see there are reasons to carry on.”

Kathy Malcolm
Kathy Malcolm

Our home was washed away"


Helen looked at her watch. Ten minutes was not enough time to gather up her life and make a run for it.

But after being evacuated, a tidal surge soon brought waves crashing down on the coastal community in Norfolk where Helen lives with her partner and children.

The family could only watch as their home was completely destroyed by the enormous waves.

"We lost everything. We lost our home, our business, all of our belongings – everything," says Helen.

Their static home was lifted high on the crest of a wave before it crashed back down to earth, snapping in two. All their ruined belongings were scattered in a nearby field.

We were totally bedraggled.
We must have been shell-shocked."

Traumatised and exhausted, the family suddenly found themselves rain-soaked and homeless in the middle of December.

They were feeling hopeless – until the British Red Cross volunteers arrived. They were laden with food parcels, bedding and hygiene packs for all the residents.

"We were totally bedraggled, out of our minds – I don't think we made any sense,” says Helen. "We must have been shell-shocked but they were so grounded and calm in the midst of this completely mad space.”

“Out of our minds”

The volunteers comforted the distraught couple, giving Helen and her family food and dry clothes. They also provided advice on the next steps to take.

As the flood waters receded, Helen’s family made plans to start again. The Red Cross stayed in touch to see if they needed any support.

"It felt like real care," says Helen. "That meant the world, it really did."

Girl with tear-stained cheeks looks at the camera
Woman and daughter talk to a Red Cross volunteer
  • Help us support families like Helen's when disasters strike: donate to the Disaster Fund.

John was lying in the road – I didn’t know what to do"

John’s wife, June, was pushing him along the street in his wheelchair when they hit an uneven paving stone. The 72-year-old, who was recovering from a broken hip with some additional medical conditions, was flung from the chair and landed heavily in the road.

June panicked. “I just saw John lying in the road. I didn’t know what to do as there was no way I could get him up myself. It was getting dark and there didn’t seem to be anyone around.”

But then, miraculously, British Red Cross volunteers Derek and Debi drove by – ironically on their way home from a day of first aid duty at an event.

The couple immediately stopped and rushed over to help.

That’s it, I’m safe now;
they will help me."

A relieved June said: “When I saw it was the Red Cross, I thought: ‘That’s it, I’m safe now; they will help me’. They checked my husband was okay and put a blanket around him until he was ready to be moved. It was such a relief to have them take over.”

Debi, a Red Cross volunteer for 17 years, said: “The couple told us about John’s broken hip, but also mentioned other medical factors such as diabetes and previous heart surgery.

“Taking all this into account, we decided it was best to call 999 so a paramedic could help us get John up off the ground safely and do a full check-up.”

Together, they all got John back into his wheelchair and into his house, where the paramedic took over medical duties while the volunteers checked June was okay.

“They’d both been on first aid duty all day so must’ve been exhausted,” said June. “But we’re so grateful they stopped for us. I don’t know what I would have done without them.”

John and June Ralls

I did an Ebola test. It was positive"

Five days after being admitted to hospital, Saa’s father died. It was only after his death that medical staff realised he had been displaying the symptoms of Ebola.

The outbreak began in Guinea, in March, and has since spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. A lack of knowledge and understanding about the disease meant that it spread quickly, particularly among health workers and those caring for the sick. This is exactly how Saa became infected; caring for his father. 

“The countdown then started for me,” says Saa. Ebola is transmitted through the bodily fluids of an infected person and has an incubation period of three weeks.

“After nine days I got fever. I went to the treatment centre, where I did an Ebola test. It was positive.”

Saa’s body temperature came close to 40 degrees combined with diarrhoea and vomiting. In some cases, patients can experience both internal and external bleeding and the majority who catch Ebola will die. 

The countdown then
started for me."

Saa was treated with an oral rehydration treatment and intravenous fluids. “I felt so tired and uncomfortable, but with the treatment I started to feel better.”

Eventually Saa recovered and was tested three times before doctors discharged him.

Initially, people were overjoyed when he returned to his home village. But that delight soon gave way to stigma. There is a great deal of fear and rumour surrounding Ebola. Those who survive are often shunned, despite them holding a certificate saying they’ve recovered.  

“I was stigmatised. Some people avoided me in the beginning but now, over time, they have learned to accept me.”

The British Red Cross has deployed a number of health workers to West Africa to support the fight against Ebola. Saa is now part of a Red Cross team of volunteers working to raise awareness of the disease.

“We need to educate people and increase the awareness. This is the key to stopping Ebola.”

Saa Sabas, Ebola survivor

Behind every image in our TV advert is the true story of a person or family in crisis who have been helped by the Red Cross.

Some of the images of individuals have been changed but all the stories and quotes on this web page are real.


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