The Kenya Red Cross is a humanitarian relief organization created through an Act of Parliament. As a non-profit and voluntary organization, the Kenya Red Cross operates through a network of 58 Branches and 69,000 volunteers countrywide. Its programs have been drastically increased and fashioned to meet the needs of communities countrywide, and thereby able to handle multiple disasters happening concurrently.
Due to its effort and outstanding services, the Kenya Red Cross was awarded SGS Certification in 2005 for excellence in the provision of humanitarian services, and hence became the first African Red Cross National Society to achieve this feat. This year, the organization was awarded the Super Brands Status by the world’s largest independent arbiter of brands, Superbrands. John Havilla, a student from Catholic University of Eastern Africa talks to Anthony Mwangi, Public Relations Manager, Kenya Red Cross about the award.
Havilla: What’s the secret behind your success?
Mwangi: We execute our services reliably and fast to save lives in the target areas, thereby helping to alleviate human suffering.
Havilla: What has this award done to the image of your organization?
Mwangi: The award means that the organization represents quality, humanity, accountability and trust. Besides, there is also the element of identification where other organizations would like to identify with our trusted, respected and highly visible brand.
Havilla: How do you hope to retain the image?
Mwangi: By making our services even better. We are working at increasing the speed at which we save lives and are acquiring better facilities. We shall ensure that our professionalism is sustained and that we continue to be the first organization on the ground during emergency situations.
Havilla: How have you managed to be ahead of your competitors?
Mwangi: As I mentioned earlier, speed is a key factor. There is also reliability, as we have a network of 58 Branches spread throughout the country. We hope to further capitalize on our countrywide reach to deliver quality service to more vulnerable people.
Havilla: Red Cross offers training as well as free services to the community. Where do you get your funds?
Mwangi: We receive funds from different donors and organizations around the world such as: the International Committee of the Red Cross, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and other Red Cross Movements from Germany, USA, France, Spain, Denmark, Norway and Finland. We also receive financial support from the corporate sector in Kenya and the general public. The Government of Kenya also donates to us in-kind support. We do not charge the community for any services that we render.
Havilla: Experience has shown that business strategies lead to better services than free services. Do you have any income generating activities?
Mwangi: We have a Ksh 320 million complex that we inaugurated in May this year which comprises a conference centre, accommodation, health club and office space. This is a major project for us as it will boost our ability to pay our core-costs. We provide conference and accommodation facilities and at the same time we have leased out the 4-storeyed office block to a member of the corporate sector. Beside this, we have a Commercial First Aid component, where we provide First Aid training to the corporate sector and other organizations at a fee. It is our desire to be self-sustainable.
Havilla: What are your permanent solutions to calamities?
Mwangi: We need to have more preparedness measures implemented on the community level. At the same time, we do not want to create dependency syndrome among the beneficiaries of our services, therefore we make the community take over projects that we initiate with their involvement. This we do by training them to offer First Aid services during disasters, as well as involve them in community based disaster management. We also invest in equipment and items that will ensure speedy response to the target areas. To back up the services, we provide non-food relief items such as blankets, mosquito nets, kitchen sets, jerricans, tarpaulins and bars or soap, as well as food where necessary.
In the case of floods, preparedness has been our goal. We equip the community with First Aid kits, training and early warning techniques. In drought affected areas, we cooperate with the Ministry of Water to dig up boreholes, earth dams and water pans for the communities. Through this, we have managed to put up water projects in arid and semi arid areas.
Havilla: How does the government and private sector assist you?
Mwangi: The government has from time to time exempted Kenya Red Cross from paying tax in mostly relief items, as well as given us in-kind donations and parcels of land that we have used for building warehouses and offices. We work closely with the local administration in the districts, for instance in the District Disaster Committees. We are currently the co-chair of the Rapid Onset Disaster Committee, which discusses emerging disaster issues. We are also part of the Kenya Food Security Steering Group that discusses food security issues in the country. We also work with and get support from the private sectors such as the corporate sector and other organizations such as the United Nations. Due to our close relations, they support us with cash or in-kind donations.
Havilla: Do you have any success story apart from the award?
Mwangi: First of all our success lies in getting satisfaction from serving the communities. One of our greatest successes was in the setting up of the first-ever water purification plant in the country. This was in Tana River during the December 2006 floods. The plant was able to supply 10,000 liters of water to 500 people every day. The other major success was the construction of our Ksh 320 million complex at our Headquarters in Nairobi’s South ‘C’ area.
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