San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Community Aids Limón Red Cross

THE grave financial situation of the Limón Red Cross has taken an optimisticturn after the Caribbean port town’s chapterthreatened to close its doors severalmonths ago because of lack of resources.Limón Red Cross manager DaniloAcosta said that in recent weeks there hasbeen increased collaboration from theLimón community, including more participationof volunteers in First Aid courses.He said there also has been a “verypositive response” to recent efforts to raisefunds for the struggling regional chapter.For example, in just one day in Novemberthe Limón chapter raised ¢1 million($2,240) through a bingo, he told The TicoTimes this week.AFTER word got out about the possibleclosure in September (TT, Sept. 17),volunteers and offers of assistance floodedthe Limón chapter, according to WalterZarate, who was the provisional administratorbefore Acosta took over Oct. 30.“There is no longer any talk of shuttingit down; we have a positive outlook andknow the Limón Red Cross will rise fromthe ashes,” he told The Tico Times inOctober.While struggling with shortcomingssuch as roof damage, electrical failures andmechanical problems with its ambulances,the chapter’s debt to the national RedCross headquarters in San José escalated to¢33 million ($74,000).ACCORDING to Miguel Carmona,president of the Costa Rican Red Cross,five employees from the Limón chapterwere laid off to lower operational costsabout five months ago. Those let go includedambulance drivers, rescue workers andothers who had provided as many as 15years of service to the Limón chapter.The Limón Red Cross is now staffedby six employees and 32 registered volunteers,of whom 18 are active.Zarate, who is now Red Cross regionaldirector for the northern province ofHeredia, told The Tico Times that sometimeshe had to leave his administrativeduties in Limón to drive the ambulance andprovide paramedic assistance. Althoughthe chapter owns two ambulances, at timesthe budget, of approximately ¢24 million($53,700) per year, permitted just one driver.HE said the chapter, which is thesatellite base for the 911 emergencyresponse service that covers the entireeastern province of Limón, in the past didnot receive adequate support from residents,area businesses or the government.Fortunately, two years after the disintegrationof the last board of directors,the Limón Red Cross now boasts a newboard that has been performing its dutiesvoluntarily for approximately twomonths.Agroup of doctors and prominent communitymembers from Limón form theboard, which was elected by popular votewithin the Limón community.If the board can ensure a minimummonthly income of ¢2.8 million ($6,280),the Limón chapter will not be forced toclose in March 2005, the end of a six-monthprobation period.VOLUNTEER Yahayra Sibajadescribes the new board as a “highly motivated”team that has gotten busy settingmajor projects in motion.The main project, called “ContributingFamilies,” consists of gathering fundsthrough a voluntary monthly payroll deductionof any amount a family wishes to contribute.The board is also considering holdingcultural and health fairs to raise funds.During the first eight months of thisyear, the Limón Red Cross helped 2,402patients, including the victims of 171vehicle collisions, and traveled 58,000kilometers (36,000 miles) in its ambulancesto aid those in need of medicalassistance.

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