Up Close … with Colette Servina, secretary general of the Red Cross Society of Seychelles-‘My main hobby is volunteering for the Red Cross’


Colette Servina, secretary general of the RCSSThese were the words of Colette Servina, the current secretary general of the RCSS, who features in our Up Close column this week.

“I was a nurse previously, therefore was already providing that caring attention to people, wanting them to get or feel better - so it’s a continuation of what I was already doing but on a much larger scale,” she told me.

“I had a very bad accident in the early 90s and lots of people helped me. It wasn’t certain if I would walk again as there was a risk of me being paralysed. While recuperating, I vowed to myself that if I get well I will dedicate my life to helping people.” 

And that is what Mrs Servina has been doing ever since she joined the Red Cross.
She spoke to one of her friends at that time, Barbara Carolus, who is currently the President of the RCSS, and soon after she started following first aid course and eventually became a first aid instructor.

It is to be noted that Mrs Servina was previously the president of the RCSS but didn’t feel fulfilled in such a position.

“I felt I was standing on the sideline and watching  the actions go by. So being the secretary general makes me more involved and therefore can contribute to my utmost ability,” she said.

“What keep me going in the Red Cross are mainly it’s seven principles one should work under and which I respect a great deal.  They are humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity, and universality.

“Also it is a very well organised and well-structured body,” she said.
According to the world history of the society, it all started in 1859 by a Swiss businessman, Henry Dunant, when he was travelling to northern Italy to obtain a business document.

While there, he happened to witness a one-day battle between Austrian and French armies outside the town of Solferino and was horrified to see that 9,000 wounded soldiers were left without any medical attention, and he organised local villagers to help care for the wounded.

Later that year, the committee held an international conference to bring together governmental and private aid organisations. Each country has its own society and together they fall under The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies which has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Red Cross holding a disaster contingency plan workshop for health workers last year

As for the Red Cross logo, Mr Dunant reversed Swiss flag from a red background with white flag to white background with red flag. It should be noted that some countries use Red Crescent as the name for their Red Cross society and this is mainly in Islamic-dominated countries. When war happened in Islamic countries like Iran and Turkey at that time the people there were not comfortable with the cross on the logo. Hence the name Red Crescent, but the cross has no religious connotation. However, not all Islamist countries go for the Red Crescent name.

Indonesia for example has one of the most populous Muslim nations on Earth but uses the Red Cross.

The RCSS’s functions through voluntarism and donations -- be it financial or other -- from members of the public.

“One of the great attributes of the Red Cross is the training it offers to volunteers. One comes offer his/her services for free but comes out empowered due to the training gained there.
Depending on what you want to specialise in, the Red Cross offers training in first aid; how to do assessment after a fire or disaster; how to distribute relief goods as there is a way of doing it; how to set up tents during a disastrous event; how to provide moral or psychological support to an affected person be it during a disaster, an illness or in the loss of a loved one. So even if you are volunteering you gain and you achieve a great level of personal development all depending on how involved you are.”

Mrs Servina also noted that people have a wrong perception of the Red Cross. They believe the Red Cross is rich or say they cannot join the society because they are afraid of blood, or of seeing injured people.

She said there are specific areas where a person can help or empower himself/herself through the Red Cross, such as in first aid, standby ambulances, organising warehouse, etc…
“There are lots of work to be done to sensitise people on the role and functions of the Red Cross,” said Mrs Servina.

A first aid training session run by the RCSS

She categorically refuted certain beliefs that the  Red Cross is a rich organization and has lots of money.

“The society depends on donations, be it in the running of its offices, its means of transportation, in fact on everything it needs to function. So its main challenges are finance and volunteers.  The society depends on revenue earned under certain projects, membership fees, sale of first aid kits and fund raising activities like first aid training to organisations and companies. As for volunteers, even if the will is there for them to help, you cannot really depend on them as their priorities or responsibilities in life may change suddenly and therefore may not be available in certain instances. For example, a volunteer may leave the country to pursue further studies...

Anyone can make donations to the RCSS at anytime. They do not have to wait for a disaster to do so – financial assistance will be greatly welcomed.

Even if she has a passion for volunteering for the Red Cross -- like providing first aid training and carrying out sensitisation activities, Mrs Servina has other hobbies like watching TV, films -- ranging from action movies to documentaries -- and also reading.

The RCSS can be reached on 4374544 or e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for any donations or assistance you may want to provide.


by Marylene Julie

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