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Help the Red Cross achieve its goal

By Antonio De Jesús Aguado

In San Miguel de Allende the only emergency services provider, established here for more than 30 years, is the Red Cross. Since 1980, the Red Cross has assisted at the scenes of about 76,000 accidents, which have increased from around 200 a year in 1980 to about 4,000 a year nowadays. The Red Cross in the city needs a budget of 1.5 million pesos a year to operate, and this year through the annual collection they hope to collect at least 300,000 pesos. That money will be used for the purchase of medical supplies, operating expenses and payment of employees.

Origins of the Red Cross in San Miguel

In the 1970s in San Miguel there were only two ambulances—if they were available. One of them was the property of the IMSS (Mexican Institute of Social Security) and the other was owned by the General Hospital. There were no trained emergency medical technicians, just a driver, a stretcher bearer and one assistant. “In early 1970 there was a gas station next to the Instituto Allende, which later was moved to its current location near Calle 5 de Mayo. A bus with passengers was on fire at that gas station. The only two ambulances that there were in the city were transporting many people in just one trip to the hospital, but the curious thing is that they were only transporting those who could walk, and the others who were more seriously injured were burned in the bus,” recalled Luis Manuel Arellano Martin, councilor of the local Red Cross. According to Arellano, in 1980 some citizens formed a group to establish a delegation of the Red Cross in the municipality to offer emergency services. The first personnel were trained in Celaya, and on May 5, 1980, the Red Cross began operations in the city, with just one ambulance donated by the Rotary Club. “The first aid kit was a small plastic box in which they used to carry five muslin wraps, thiomersal, some triangular bandages and scissors; they were trained on how to use the bandages. They could do a lot with that material. Now our equipment is more modern and we can provide proper attention,” said Arellano.

Although the Red Cross is an extremely valuable asset in the city, it also underwent some internal conflicts early on, when some personnel left one year after its foundation, in February 1981, and it nearly stopped operating because of a lack of volunteers and drivers for the ambulances. But thanks to help from the population, it kept going.

Why should we donate?

The Red Cross is Mexico’s largest humanitarian and emergency aid system. Although it is a nonprofit organization, its council has to pay for electricity and water services, employee salaries, gasoline, ambulances and medical equipment and supplies. Each year the Red Cross holds the Colecta Nacional (National Collection) which is “the most important program for collecting funds” for the institution, said Rosalba Rangel, president of the Red Cross in San Miguel. She told Atención that “the colecta is a program that has to be held every year in order to make people aware that they must support the Red Cross.” She also commented that the population’s participation is very important for maintaining the institution because “five years ago, the council agreed that the Red Cross must respond to any emergency call from those who require first aid.”

The colecta began on April 26 and will last 45 days. Rangel commented that citizens must donate to the Red Cross “because we do not know when we are going to need it.” The president also said that if someone has not received medical attention from the Red Cross after they called the emergency number it is not because they do not want to help, but because the institution does not have enough volunteers or ambulances, “but we do what we can.” Rangel also urged people not to make phony calls for emergency assistance; every day more than 30 such bogus requests are received. “Sometimes the medical assistance team has gone to rural communities located two or three hours away from the urban area, and when they arrive, sometimes during the night, people say that no one asked for an ambulance. They must know that the volunteers are exposed to danger on their trip,” she said.

On the matter of this year’s collection, Rangel commented that the municipality has increased the subsidy from 32,500 pesos to 75,000 pesos per month. During the start of the annual collection Mayor Mauricio Trejo announced that the subsidy from the municipality would be 900,000 pesos yearly. In 2012, when Rangel was sworn in as president of the Red Cross, she had plans for upgrading the Red Cross facilities; she commented that with the support from the local government they may be starting construction of new dormitories, bathrooms, a dining room, classrooms and doctors’ offices.

The goal in 2013

Gustavo Rodríguez, treasurer and administrator of the organization, said that in 2012 the goal of the collection was 200,000 pesos but they did not collect more than half that amount. This year the goal is to collect 300,000 pesos, and they have higher expectations than in 2012. Rodríguez highlighted that the Red Cross operates on donations and that 95 percent of the services they provide are free of charge; the other five percent have a cost and consist of scheduled services and participation in special events. He remarked that people are not always mindful of the importance of having an institution like this in the city and “with their donations we want to provide 95 percent of our services free of charge.” The Red Cross has been strongly supported by the San Miguel Community Foundation and the Bridge Studio, along with other individuals and institutions that prefer to remain anonymous.

Currently in the city, 160 money collection boxes have been distributed, and 60 volunteers will ask for donations during the 45-day collection period. Claudia Vilchis, coordinator of the colecta, said, “If each inhabitant of the city donates two pesos, we could easily exceed our goal.” According to Vilchis, about 60 percent of the residents support the Red Cross with donations, and they give the volunteers a reason to keep smiling and working. Currently 16 of the 160 money boxes have been filled, and on average they contain about 800 pesos each. Donations can also be deposited into the Bancomer account 0179808566 in the name of Cruz Roja Mexicana IAP.

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