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The interview: the British Red Cross

This season, COS is supporting the British Red Cross to help people in crisis in the UK and around the world. We caught up with their disaster management coordinator Juliet Bruce to find out more…


Half the proceeds of our specially designed gift bags go to charity*

As the year comes to a close (and what a year it’s been!) it’s easy to get swept up in festive fever. But at times like this, it pays to pause for a minute, consider the deeper meaning behind the celebrations and give back to those in need. That’s why this holiday season, COS is supporting the Red Cross Movement to help people in crisis all around the world. With every purchase in store, you can choose to round up your payment or donate an amount of your choice to support the charity or purchase one our specially designed gift bags online, half the proceeds of which go to charity*.

We spoke to Juliet Bruce, disaster management coordinator for the British Red Cross Middle East and North Africa team, to find out more about how donations like COS’ help people in need, and what small actions we can all take to make a difference on a personal level…

‘As the disaster management coordinator, I support our partner National Societies in the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement with ensuring they are prepared for and able to quickly respond to emergencies.’

‘My work is currently focused on supporting them in Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Syria. This can involve everything from offering technical advice on emergency response plans, to working with colleagues based in these countries on designing programmes to reach vulnerable families with projects like cash support. I also help to coordinate any assistance provided by the British Red Cross to our partner Red Cross National Societies in the Middle East and North Africa when there is a new disaster such as flooding, drought or outbreaks of civil unrest.’

‘Working in an organisation that promotes locally-led emergency response is the best way to support people in a crisis. I believe it is a more sustainable, effective and dignified way of helping people when they need it most.’

‘When a disaster strikes in any given country, we have standard procedures for how to best react and respond. We rely on our networks of volunteers who are embedded in communities across the affected country to not only help us carry out these assessments, but also to mobilise and in some cases respond to the crisis by helping with things like distributions of aid.’

‘Back here in the UK, when a crisis happens overseas, we immediately start to look at the ways in which we might be able to help. This might include setting up a Fundraising Appeal or ensuring relevant contingency stocks are available to be sent abroad if needed.’

‘What differentiates us as an organisation is our ability to provide skill combined with kindness. Our volunteers are not only helping out of necessity, but also out of a sense of humanity and the need to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found. We believe in harnessing and using the incredible power of kindness, whether it’s in the form of someone’s time, skills, or the money they can donate.’


Disaster management coordinator Juliet Bruce

‘We believe in harnessing the incredible power of kindness, whether it’s someone’s time, skills, or the money they can donate.’

‘The money raised will be going towards our Disaster Fund, which is a really critical resource for the British Red Cross as it allows us to rapidly respond to support people in crisis both here in the UK and around the world working with our partners. This fund is particularly helpful to respond to what we sometimes call ‘silent emergencies’, the hidden crises that don’t make the headlines here in the UK. By being able to get support to vulnerable people in the immediate aftermath of the crisis we help them to react quickly to the situation, with the aim of saving lives and protecting livelihoods.’

‘Contributions to the disaster fund are hugely valuable to us and will become even more so as we see more emergencies unfold as a result of things like climate change and the long-lasting economic impacts of COVID-19.’

‘It has recently been used in Sudan where massive flooding has affected nearly all parts of the country. This has come on-top of COVID-19, a food crisis and on-going conflict. It is an example of an emergency that doesn’t make headline news, but where almost 900,000 people were affected. We have quickly been able to send support, in the form of both funds and a specialist to support our Sudanese team to provide clean water, hygiene items and sanitation facilities to help prevent the spread of waterborne diseases as well as ensuring families have access to shelter, health care and other essential items.’

‘The Disaster Fund was also used in the immediate aftermath of the Beirut explosion. The British Red Cross works very closely with the Lebanese Red Cross, and it was evident immediately that funds would urgently be needed in order to enable them to mobilise their teams to launch a large-scale emergency response and help the thousands of people affected. Funds were also needed to provide immediate assistance to people affected, ensuring they had food, that blood donation services could be resumed, mobile medical teams deployed to treat injured people.’

‘On a personal level, getting involved in UK based volunteering opportunities with British Red Cross is also a great way to be engaged and to help play an essential role in your community. The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is the largest humanitarian network in the world, and it is made up of people around the world volunteering within their own communities. There is an incredible sense of solidarity from this global network of around 12 million volunteers.’

Find out more about how you can volunteer here and donate here.

*Exemptions apply. Find out more here.

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