THE JAMAICA Red Cross this week entered into a formal partnership with the United States Peace Corps that could see American volunteers assigned to each of Jamaica's parishes.
The agreement was signed on Thursday at the Peace Corps' Worthington Avenue office and formalises years of cooperation between the organisations that has seen the Red Cross provide training and the Peace Corps loaning its volunteers in reciprocation.
One such volunteer was 73-year-old Californian Robert Keagy. Robert and his wife Susan, 54, arrived in Jamaica with the Peace Corps in July after closing their businesses to pursue voluntary service.
Both are attached to the Manchester office of the Red Cross where Robert is assigned to disaster preparedness and Susan is an HIV/AIDS educator training high school students to be peer educators.
"It is a logical partnership," believes Robert. "A lot of the work the Peace Corps and the Red Cross do overlaps. One of the fundamental principles of the Red Cross is humanity which really speaks to the Peace Corps too," he told The Gleaner.
"There is no reason why this is not going to be replicated throughout other countries in the world so here it is again, Jamaica leading," said Red Cross Chairman Ferris Ziadie of the partnership.
He said that it arose from discussions which he initially had with Peace Corps Country Director for Jamaica, Dr. Suchet Loois, two years ago.
Dr. Loois confirmed that Washington was taking an interest. "They have seen this and perhaps if it works they can extend it to other countries." The exact nature of the co-operation was still flexible, added Mr. Ziadie. "As the necessity arrives to develop programmes or projects, then so the volunteers or the partnership will energise and expand."
The text of the agreement commits the parties to improving the planning, implementation and evaluation of joint programmes of assistance, particularly in disaster preparedness and management.