By Olivia Joerges

Our volunteers and staff around the world are at the heart of the Red Cross movement. Not just because of their hard work and dedication, but also because of their willingness to both learn and teach new skills.

Building team knowledge

To encourage this environment of learning between Red Cross volunteers and aid workers, the Americas Regional Office started a new shadow deployment program.

The idea behind this program is to give volunteers the opportunity to learn new skills they have not yet been able to apply in the field, supporting peer to peer learning while also providing exceptional service to the emergency operation being supported.

Jaime Eduardo Pineda Fernández and Vanesa Colsa are two Red Crossers who met during their FACT (Field Assessment Coordination Team) deployment in Panama, Brazil and Trinidad.

What is "FACT"?

FACT team members are first responders who are ready to go anywhere in the world with as little as ten hours notice to provide technical expertise in relief, logistics, health, and other emergency services. Vanesa recently completed her FACT training with the Canadian Red Cross—a program Jaime said he has always wanted to complete.

“When I knew this was a FACT deployment, for me, this moment was very meaningful. To me, to be part of FACT is a dream,” Jaime said.  

The shadow team

Jaime and VanessaJaime has been with the Colombian Red Cross for over 24 years, and has worked both nationally and internationally. His partner in crime during this mission, Vanesa, works as an ERU Logistics Delegate for the Swiss Red Cross and has been deployed on missions in Haiti, Nepal and Bangladesh.

On this deployment Jaime’s role was to shadow Vanesa to learn more about logistics assessment. Working as a strong team, their job was to determine what supplies were needed by those migrating from Venezuela and other countries of the region.

“I remember the whole mission had a great sense of humour, we were a team,” Vanesa reminisced. “At the same time, it was a difficult mission in the sense that we were talking to the people that had left their communities, so sometimes the stories were tough. But we were a great team.”

Overcoming challenges

Compared to previous operations, the two were challenged by their limited contact between their team and the national Red Cross society.

“All the FACT team that was deployed had the same challenge, trying to get information about the community, about the people in the streets, without the support of the national society,” Jaime said.

With some investigation, they were able to gather information from local people, exploring markets, and attending meetings with other UN agencies in the field.

“We don’t have a lot of information on this population movement—about what is going on, so it’s really important to understand what is happening there, that there are a lot of people in need coming out of Venezuela,” Vanesa explained. “There is a great need, and it doesn’t look like it's going to stop soon, so it is good for people to get involved … and speak out about what is happening.”

Although the team had their challenges, Jaime and Vanesa both agreed their time working together was one of the highlights of the program. Aside from their complimentary partnership, the pair loved meeting new volunteers in the movement and making a positive difference in people’s stories.

“That feeling of movement that I felt [in this mission], is one of my favourite things about the Red Cross,” Vanesa said.