As some of you may know, I've been volunteering for the British Red Cross for over a year now. I'm a volunteer as part of the 'Gofal' program, which aims to enable isolated older adults to engage with their community. As a volunteer I assess the needs of incoming clients and provide short-term support towards the goal of increasing their confidence, independence, and quality of life. I've been an active volunteer in various ways since high school, and when I moved over here I wanted to continue that tradition. I wanted to volunteer in some way with older adults, and to be honest I found the British Red Cross opportunity by accident. Like many people, the first thing that comes to my mind when I hear of the Red Cross is first aid, emergency response, and foreign aid, so I wouldn't have thought to look them up for the type of volunteering I was interested in. In fact, alongside of all of these things, they have a strong focus on supporting independence in the community to people who are isolated or people with health and mobility issues. When I saw a flyer in their shop advertising their need for volunteers to work with older people, I jumped at the chance! I am so glad that I have become involved with them, because they are a fantastic organization to volunteer with. Their motto is 'refusing to ignore people in crisis', and I love this because it focuses on the individual and the fact that anyone can have a personal crisis that leads to a need for help and support.
On Thursday, June 12th, I had the once-in-a-lifetime experience of attending a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace! The British Red Cross was founded in 1864, initially as an organization to be responsible for advancing the rules laid down in the first Geneva Convention. The British Red Cross played a huge role in caring for British soldiers during both World Wars, and this royal garden party was to honor 150 years of service from the British Red Cross. As a special tribute to the role that the BRC played in World War I, there were nurses dressed in WWI-style nurses' uniforms, and one of the cakes served was an original WWI-era recipe!
|Prince Charles and Princess Alexandra with nurses|
All the food served was absolutely delicious! My friend John who had attended a garden party before told me that I had to try the cucumber sandwiches, and though I was skeptical as to how cucumber sandwiches could be made to be exceptional, he was right! The trick is mint leaves. Aside from those, my favorite delicacies were these gorgeous strawberry tarts, and the iced coffee, which I'm sure had a hint of a chocolate taste to it. I had thought there might be some speeches or something during the party, but it really was three hours of wandering around the gardens and socializing, while enjoying the entertainment. There was a military band playing at each opposite corner of the garden, one was the Parachute Regiment Band and one was the Royal Marines Band.
I am so glad that I went to this event, not only because I know I will never again have the chance to go inside Buckingham Palace, but because I had the chance to meet fellow volunteers and staff of the BRC and to connect with people who share my similar values regarding helping people and working in social care. Although we were told we were forbidden from bringing cameras and from taking photographs on cell phones, the second part of that rule was not being enforced inside, and I saw SO many people taking pictures. I was tempted, but I refrained until we were on our way out, at which point I decided if the Beefeaters were going to kick me out, it would just get me out of the crowds faster (but they didn't). So here's me in all my splendor in the courtyard on my way out of Buckingham Palace!