Created to promote relief work in times of peace, the Empress Shôken Fund received many applications this year from Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies and is pleased to announce its support for six projects around the world which address local vulnerabilities in Chile, Honduras, Comoros, Egypt, Serbia and Ireland. The total amount of the grant allocations is around 105,000 Swiss Francs.
The projects selected show innovative approaches to reaching vulnerable minorities and adapting services to local contexts. National Societies show a clear commitment and contribution to the project implementation and sustainability.
In Chile, more than 2 million people live with ‘functional diversity’ such as autism, Aspergers and Downs syndrome. The opportunities for some people to be included in working and social projects can be limited. With support from the Empress Shôken Fund grant, the Chilean Red Cross aims to create working inclusion project (catering services) by building on the existing network of Red Cross volunteers, cooperating with professional centres and staff supporting these vulnerable groups, and by working with the corporate social responsibility focal points in private companies. In this way, the National Society wants to promote positive attitudes and strategies to build on people’s skills and talent, as well as initiate an income generating catering service that will actively involve this group in the Red Cross existing services and branches in a sustainable way.
In Honduras, people under the age of 30 make up to 70 per cent of the country’s population. The national socio-economic context is highly affected by poverty, social inequality and a lower quality of life. Youth violence is a widespread social problem due to the linkage between illicit association and youth gangs. Consequently youth are labelled, discriminated and become victims of emotional and physical violence. Through the selected project, Honduran Red Cross wants to increase its impact among vulnerable groups by promoting respect for human dignity and behavioural change. The National Society will capitalize on its past experience in the project ‘Widening Opportunities’ for youth, and complementing this approach with the ‘Youth as Agents of Behavioural Change’ methodology to disseminate Red Cross humanitarian values and principles. In this way, the National Society aims to reduce the risk factors among young vulnerable groups.
In Comoros, 70 per cent of the 12,500 National Society volunteers are under 30 years old. Their involvement, motivation and availability project a great, dynamic image for the National Society. However, due to the lack of initiatives and activities, many often leave the organization. With support from the Empress Shôken Fund, the Comoros Red Crescent aims to support volunteer mobilization across the country, by training youth leaders and coordinators in order to set up local youth clubs and organise self-sustaining youth activities.
In Egypt, the Egyptian Red Crescent is positioning itself as the main reference for first aid in the country. The selected project builds on the existing competencies and capacities and allows the National Society to reach a specific vulnerable group such as deaf and mute disabled people. The Egyptian Red Crescent aims to train its volunteers in sign language, provide first aid training to deaf and mute disabled people, and further involve them in the programs and services of the society.
In Serbia, the Red Cross of Serbia is responsible for the implementation of the national anti-trafficking project. This project showed a specific need to reach particularly vulnerable groups such as children and youth, people with disabilities, and children without parental care. The grant from the Empress Shôken Fund will allow the National Society to capitalize on its existing organizational capacities and train volunteer educators in 20 municipalities to organize interactive meetings and workshops in kindergartens, primary and secondary schools. The programme will raise awareness among children and young people to prevent them to become victims of human traffic.
Ireland is the first country in the world where the Red Cross introduced a Community-Based Health and First Aid programme through groups of special status Red Cross volunteer inmates in a prison setting. The contribution of the Empress Shôken Fund this year will allow the National Society to extend this programme in Limerick prison.
Relief work during times of peace
The Empress Shôken Fund was created in 1912 by Her Majesty The Empress of Japan at the 9th International Red Cross Conference to promote relief work in time of peace. The fund is administered by a Joint Commission made up of representatives from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Joint Commission maintains regular relations with the Japanese Permanent Mission in Geneva in close cooperation with the Japanese Red Cross Society as well as the Meiji Jingu Research Institute.
Today the fund has a total value of 14 million Swiss francs, the proceeds of which are used to support projects of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable. Allocations are granted annually on 11 April, the anniversary of the death of H.M. The Empress Shôken. The first allocation was made in 1921 just after the First World War to five European National Societies in support of the fight against tuberculosis. To date the Fund assisted more than 150 National Societies.
Whilst not directly intervening in the administration of the Empress Shôken Fund, the imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Japanese people, venerate the generosity of the Empress and continue to hold in high esteem the relevance of the fund by making regular contributions.
For more information about the Empress Shôken Fund, visit www.shokenfund.org.