Joydev Dutt has an unassuming stature, but his pride at being a volunteer with the Bangladesh Red Crescent adds height to his small frame.
He has every reason to be proud. A volunteer since 1985, Dutt alerted more than 15,000 of his fellow villagers to an upcoming cyclone by riding his bicycle through torrential rains for hours with a megaphone hurled over his shoulder. Because of his tireless efforts, the loss of life in his village was significantly reduced.
Dutt is one of hundreds of volunteers working with the American Red Cross-funded Cyclone Preparedness Program (CPP), an early warning system started in 1972 that relays cyclone warnings to local communities.
Jointly run by the Bangladesh Red Crescent and the Government of Bangladesh, this extensive telecommunications network relies on radio operators at regional and sub-district levels to pass warnings down to volunteers like Dutt, who then go door-to-door to alert neighbors. Bicycles, motorcycles, or even the volunteer’s two feet become viable modes of transportation to reach people when a disaster is headed their way.
Because of its geographical location, Bangladesh is a country naturally prone to cyclones and vulnerable to the floods and landslides that are left behind. In 1970, a 10-year-old Dutt was on the other side when a cyclone hit the southern region of Bangladesh, killing more than 500,000 people.
He survived, he says, “purely by luck.” But the memory stayed with him, and when he was later exposed to the work of the Red Crescent, he realized that if warnings could be spreadbefore a disaster strikes, lives, property and livelihoods could be saved.
“During my Red Crescent training, there was a special focus on how to disseminate warnings about upcoming storms so people can access shelter safely,” said Dutt. “Hearing the stories they told us made me remember my experience when I was young and inspired me as a volunteer.”
Dutt has not only learned a lot since becoming a volunteer, but has also seen his status in the community rise. “People really appreciate us because they see how we help,” he said.
Now approaching nearly 35 years with the CPP, Dutt is still motivated in his work.
“As a volunteer, I feel it is an obligation to help people,” he said. “I want to support them. The Red Crescent has given me an identity as a volunteer of one of the world’s biggest humanitarian organizations, and I am proud of that. As long as I’m alive, I’ll be a volunteer. This is my great achievement.”
For more information on the CPP or other American Red Cross-supported programming in Bangladesh, visit redcross.org.