On March 3, 2020, the first case of covid-19 in Chile was confirmed by the Ministry of Health (Minsal), in the city of Talca, Maule region. On the 18th of that same month, President Sebastián Piñera decreed a state of catastrophe for 90 days, which was later extended with the deployment of personnel from the Armed Forces to protect critical infrastructure. Currently, Chile has confirmed more than 505,000 positive cases, and more than 14,000 people died from coronavirus, mainly in the metropolitan area of Santiago. Four million tests have been carried out so far, with a positivity rate of almost 15%.
David Brito is studying to become a commercial engineer in Chile and meanwhile he does not stop thinking about how to lend a hand to the people most affected by the pandemic in his country. And he comes up with good ideas. His mother was already a volunteer for the Chilean Red Cross for the extinction of forest fires, when his 23-year-old son joined the Regional Committee of O’Higgins three years ago, where he carries out his work and develops his creativity in the fight against covid-19.
According to David, since the pandemic was declared, he has been thinking about how he could help people who felt lonely and isolated during the months of confinement. At the same time, many older volunteers in the organization were also very frustrated at having to stay home without being able to volunteer. And that is how, at the end of March, the project emerged Talk to me which began with the purchase of a SIM card for less than 2,000 Chilean pesos (two euros). “With that card and a telephone, we were able to make ourselves available to the population in confinement who was looking for emotional relief … At first we were surprised to see that not only elderly people who lived alone called us, parents also contacted us and mothers, or even young people who wanted to talk to someone who would listen to them and get accurate information about the virus. “
This new initiative also helps them combat false information that could put people’s health at risk. First it was the telephone, but such was the acceptance of the project in the community, that they quickly enabled a WhatsApp line and a Facebook account to be able to reach more people. Several older volunteers between the ages of 70 and 80 answer the calls, while other younger ones take care of the account of Facebook and the WhatsApp line.
“I thought the project was an excellent idea to offer a double psychosocial support service,” says David. On the one hand, older volunteers who were unable to leave due to the confinement situation can now work from their homes without overexposing themselves to the virus; and on the other, many people are receiving support in these difficult times. The team of seven volunteers who receive the calls has psychosocial training and to attend the most difficult cases they receive advice from a psychologist. Now the service has become very well known, so much so that they have even received calls from other countries: “I remember one day when my phone rang at four in the morning … It was an old lady from Spain, Mrs. Concepción, who was very alone and needed support. We referred the case to the Spanish Red Cross so they could attend to her from there. “
They also receive calls from people who have detected that a neighbor is very lonely and needs company or food, hygiene items, or even medicine. One of the saddest cases David remembers was that of a notice that reached them about 32 migrant families from different Latin American countries who lived in confinement crowded together in a tiny space, in terrible conditions. “It was gratifying to be able to help them, especially the children, who needed everything. The best payment is the sincere smile of someone who says thank you ”.
Volunteers adapt to any situation no matter how difficult it may be, since “the will of the entire team is what has made the project work because we are not going to give up on the coronavirus. Our motto is: we make the impossible possible ”, David ends. The Chilean Red Cross in response to the pandemic has provided more than 49,000 services in polyclinic activities, support for vaccination campaigns, delivery of humanitarian aid to migrants and vulnerable communities, distribution of personal protective equipment, food distribution, psychosocial support, etc. . In addition, it has disseminated information and prevention measures and has made home visits to people with mobility difficulties and the elderly.
Olivia acosta is responsible for Communication and Media in America for the Red Cross.