Jagan Chapagain: From volunteer to leader of the world's largest volunteer network
Jagan Chapagain was 14 years old when he joined the Nepal Red Cross Society as a volunteer. Now as Secretary General of the IFRC, he leads the world’s largest humanitarian volunteer network. In this debut episode, Chapagaintalks abouttoday’s greatest humanitarian challenges and opportunities, and he explains why we need to change the way we think and talk about the critical work of helping others through crisis.He also shares what inspired his own personal humanitarian journey.
World Humanitarian Day 2023
19 August is World Humanitarian Day. As the world’s largest humanitarian network, World Humanitarian Day is an important moment for the IFRC to reflect on the lifesaving, life-changing work of our more than 16 million volunteers and staff.
In every corner of the globe, you’ll find a Red Cross or Red Crescent volunteer doing incredible things for their local community.
Whether they’re performing first aid or providing emergency medical services to people after disaster strikes.
Offering a friendly, listening ear to people struggling with their mental health.
Supporting people on the move to access vital humanitarian services along their journeys, so they are not alone.
Reuniting families with lost loved ones when separated by conflict or crisis.
Setting up early warning systems so communities know when hazards are approaching and how to stay safe.
Or cooking hot meals and setting up shelters for people who have lost their homes.
They are all dedicated to serving, supporting, and caring for communities.
In short: no matter the crisis, no matter how hard the challenge, no matter who needs help, and no matter where they are, our Red Cross and Red Crescent humanitarians are there for communities.
We give our heartfelt thanks to each and every one of our volunteers and staff for making our world a better, safer and more united place.
Because in the face of rising disasters and challenges, the world needs humanitarians more than ever.
Learn more about how you can become a humanitarian by volunteering for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
Join in the conversation about World Humanitarian Day on social media by following us on X, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn using the hashtag #NoMatterWhat.
Discover the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement that guide our humanitarian work.
Polish Red Cross runs Poland’s largest ever international rescue exercise to prepare for disasters
“One minute is a lot of time.In a rescue, one minute can be decisive,” says Agata Grajek from the Polish Red Cross Medical Rescue Group based in Wrocław.
She’s one of 300 rescuers from seven Red Cross Societies in Europe who gathered last month in Malczyce, a small village in south-western Poland, to take part in the largest Red Cross rescue exercise ever held in the country.
The exercise took place in an abandoned factory to simulate an urban disaster requiring an urgent and complex search and rescue response.
Running for 30 hours non-stop, in both day and nighttime conditions, the gruelling exercise tested Red Cross volunteers and rescue dogs to their limits. Real people, rather than mannequins, posed as citizens injured in a collapsed building to make rescue efforts as realistic as possible.
“We mainly practised the skills of searching the area, coordinating search and rescue operations, and evacuating victims from upper floors,” said Marcin Kowalski, head of the Polish Red Cross rescue team.
The exercise was the 7th national gathering of the 19 specialized Polish Red Cross rescue groups based across the country. For the first time, they also welcomed fellow rescue teams from Lithuania, Germany, Croatia, Hungary, Spain and Finland to practise working effectively together during a response.
“If a humanitarian, construction or natural disaster occurs somewhere, we are always ready to help,” says Pasi Raatikainen, a Finnish Red Cross rescuer who took part in the exercise. Like almost all Red Cross rescuers, Pasi is a volunteer. He leads a four-person rescue team in Helsinki and takes part in exercises – all in his spare time.
“In Finland, there aren’t many training sessions dedicated to urban rescues with the use of rope techniques, so the exercise scenarios in Poland were very instructive,” he says.
It wasn’t just search and rescue teams who got put to the test, though. 60 recent volunteer recruits from the Polish Red Cross’ Humanitarian Aid Groups initiative also took part in the exercise to practise setting up shelters, distributing aid and providing psychosocial support to people affected.
“It warms my heart to see hundreds of people so committed to the idea of the Red Cross.” said Polish Red Cross Director-General, Katarzyna Mikołajczyk.
Based on the experience and learnings from the exercise, the seven Red Cross Societies who took part have now developed a cooperation framework so that they can work together more effectively on search and rescue in future whenever disasters strike across Europe.
No rescuer or volunteer ever hopes for disaster, or hopes they’ll need to put their training into action.
But in a world of increasing and increasingly complex disasters, it’s more important than ever that we take time to practise and prepare – so we can be there for people, whatever the disaster, and as soon as they need us.
Find out more about how the IFRC prepares for disasters on our disaster preparedness page.
A heart and mind for solving universal problems
In a small town in Slovakia’s southwest, Romy Mikušincová grew up dreaming about discovering the origin of the stars and the universe. It was her curiosity, she says, that made her interested in pursuing a career in science – specifically in astrophysics and theoretical physics.
Today, she is living her dream. She studies theoretical physics and astrophysics at the Roma Tre University, where she researches one of the greatest mysteries of astrophysics: black holes. Black holes are created when stars at the end of their life become so dense they collapse in on themselves and even light cannot escape their gravity.
Still, there is much to learn.
“The study of black holesisn’t a time-limited projectbecause we discovernew informationevery day”, she says.“Currently, I’m working on a simulationof black hole surveillanceforIXPE (Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer), a satellite that will be launchedby the end of 2021”.
“Giving purpose to my free time”
The time and effortrequired of a theoretical physics student is immense. But even thatis not the only thing that keeps Romy busy.Just as her passion for science grew as a teenager, Romy began another journey as a volunteer for theSlovak Red Cross.“Volunteering was interesting mainly because I wanted to help others, and to give purpose to my free time,” she says.
These days, that free time is mostly spent ona newprojectthat addresses the needs of young peopleby discussingtopics that arenotoften talked about, but which are key social and humanitarian challenges.
“Our main topics arehate-speech, peer pressure,cyberbullying andgender equality,” says Romy, adding that due to Covid-19 restrictions, most of that work today is online.
The study of black holes may seem like light years from the everyday world of young people and volunteering. But to Romy, there is a clear connection. After all, the scientific method of asking questions, investigation and solving complex problems can also be very useful in the human sphere. “It’s a great advantage when someone from a science background enters the volunteering circle with the mindset of dealing with problems until they are solved,” she explains.
Accomplishing great things
This dual path of science and humanitarian concern is not new to Romy. Milan Holota, the director at Romy’s secondary school, said her preference for science-related subjects was clear early on, as was her desire to make the world around her a better place.
“Her favourite (subjects) were the natural science classes, and she was exceptional in her extracurriculars,” he said, referring to her after-school work with the Red Cross, where she became one of its most active members.
But she did not do all of this on her own. She recalls that the support oftwo women –hermother and her secondary school physics teacher– wereessential to her pursuit of a career in science and research.
This kind of support can be essential for young women and girls interested in science. For many, such a pathis blocked by cultural attitudes that steer girls away from male-dominated topics such as mathematics and science.
Accordingto theUNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS),there is a clear gender gapin the science field –only 30 per centof the world’s researchers are women.It was even less in Romy’s class at university.At the beginning of her university studies,onlya fourth of the studentswere women.
“I thinkit is mainly becausegirls are not encouraged topick careers in naturalscience,” she says.“I want to tell allwomen and girls tobuild strong relationshipswith each other,to stop belittling one anotherand to help one anotherbecause I thinkthat’s how we accomplish truly great things”.
‘If someone told me this story, I wouldn’t believe it’
It’s one of those stories that even those involved find hard to swallow. “I think if someone told me this story, I wouldn’t believe it…but it happened to me,” says Hassan Al Kontar, a 38-year-oldSyrian refugee currently living in British Columbia, Canada
For several months in 2018, Al Kontar was known as “the man at the airport” in the news, after he wasstranded at the Kuala Lumpur airport for 7 months.
His story began in 2011 when conflict broke out in Syria while he was living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Not wanting to go back to Syria — to face civil war and likely conscription into the army — he stayed in UAE until his visa expired. Ultimately deported to Malaysia, he sought asylum in numerous countries, including Canada.
In the meantime, he waited in the airport. And waited.
He slept in airport chairs and in a small enclave under an escalator. He made friends with the cleaning staff who brought him food and coffee (the coffee shops were in a part of the airport he couldn’t access).
Boredom and incessant boarding announcements were constant companions as the days ticked slowly by.He missed important family events, like his brother’s wedding, which he watched via Skype.
Desperate and frustrated, he turned to social media, quickly becoming an internet and media phenomenon. News reports referred to him as a real-life version of Tom Hanks’s character in the film, The Terminal.
“It’s the small things — taking a shower, washing your clothes, getting medicine — things you do all the time that suddenly become impossible”, explained Hassan.
“I remember day 122. I felt something strange. I could not tell what it was until I discovered that someone had opened a door to the outside. It was the first time in 120 days that I smelled fresh air.”
Finally, in November 2018, a private group of Canadians succeeded in sponsoring Hassan’s request for residency and he boarded a plane to British Columbia. Canada was the first country in the world to introduce a private sponsorship programme, which allows five individual Canadians or permanent residents to collectively sponsor a refugee. “Ordinary individuals are directly involved in saving lives,” says Hassan. “If that’s not being a hero, what is?”
From limbo to inclusion
Hassan’s airport experience was just one example of thelegal limboin which refugees often find themselves: stuck at borders, unable to move forward or back, as they try to make asylum claims and wait for some sign of hope.
Today, Hassan’s story is an example of what can happenwhen refugees are given the chanceto make a life for themselves and give back to their new communities. In Hassan’s case, part of giving back means putting on the well-known red vest worn by volunteers and staff of the Canadian Red Cross.
Inspired by the work of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in Syria and in many other conflict and emergency zones around the world,Hassan decided to help othersas his adopted country coped with a worsening COVID-19 pandemic.
“Working with the Red Cross is a dream come true,” he says. “It’s my way of giving back to the community that accepted me and gave me a chance. It’s my way of showing the Canadian people that they were not wrong in giving me a chance.”
Afraid of forgetting
Still, life is not always easy for a refugee half-way around the world from his family. “It’s my destiny and the destiny of every refugee to live between two worlds,” he says.
It’s the little things — the aroma of coffee or fresh rain on a hot street — thatbring back memories of his home in Syria, where his family has a small farm. “I am afraid of forgetting,” says Hassan, as he prepares a Syrian style coffee in his flat in Vancouver. “I have not seen my mother, my siblings, for 12 years. I do not want to lose the connection.”
What does it mean to be Syrian?
Now Hassan’s mission is tohelp his family and other refugeesfind a similar sense of safety. He works with a group that helps sponsor other refugees and he continues posting on social media to raise awareness about the plight of refugees.He even wrote a bookcalledMan @ The Airport.
“I want the western world to understand [Syrian refugees] more,” he says. “To bring the gap closer between our two cultures. What does it mean to be Syrian? To be powerless? To be voiceless?”
But Hassan is hopeful. Ironically, he says the restrictions imposed due tothe COVID-19 pandemic has helped many people better understand the plight of refugees. “During the pandemic, when all the borders were closed, people could begin to understand how it has always been for refugees. When all airports were forbidden areas, when all our passports, regardless of the color, were equally useless. This is still is the situation for most refugees in the world today.”
This story was produced and originally published by the Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine. To learn about the Magazine, and to read more stories like this,click here.
His theatre in Yemen destroyed, Osama finds a new stage
For many years, Osama consideredthe theatre his second home,a place where he could embody different characters, share poetic words of wisdom and see the smiles and laughter on the faces of people in his community.
“Every time I appear on the stage and see the smiles of children, I feel satisfied,” says Osama, a gregarious talkative man whose passion for acting has provided some refuge from the scourge and heartaches of war.
But Osama’s ability to pursue this dream suffered a serious blow when his beloved theatrewas bombed and reduced to a pile of rubble.
“My dreams were shattered,” says Osama, standing on the ruins of what was once a spacious, airy theatre, capable of holding hundreds of people. “My dreams were here in this very place,” he says, looking out of a field of broken bricks and stone. “Here, we used to bring smiles to people’s faces … before the war began.”
Most of the theatre pieces his company produced were comedies and dramas that brought happiness and laughterwhile also sharing purposeful messages.
A new humanitarian role
After the theatre was bombed, with the accumulated pain and despair of war weighing on him, Osama started looking for a new role: something that would again bring him joy and help him to rebuild his sense of purpose. His journey led him to the doors of theYemeni Red Crescentin Al Hudaydah.
Now Osamauses his gift for comedy and drama to educate people through interactive theatre sketches. The performances also convey important messages about how to stay healthy and safe in a context where war has shattered many of the basic food, water, health and sanitation systems that keep communities safe and well.
“I remember the first time I participated in an awareness-raising activity with the Yemeni Red Crescent Society,” Osama says . “I was just giving children advice about washing hands, but in a funny way. I remember their laughter at my attempts to correct some of my mistakes.
“One time, I was doing a comedy show to teach, in a comical manner, the right ways to wash hands, but I forgot one of the important ways to rub your fingers. One of the kids got up and hit me over the head in a comedic style and said, ‘The artist forgot to tell us this step.’ He started explaining it like a member of a theatrical troupe. It was the first time I felt I was really helping ordinary people cope with the challenges of war.”
Inspired by the work of the Yemeni Red Crescent in Al Hudaydah, Osama has not only played a role in the Red Crescent’s outreach programmes, but also became an active volunteer in the provision of first aid, food distribution, emergency response, and even the transportation of wounded people and bodies. Alongside all this, the energetic father and husband works various jobs, such as tending trees around the city, to support his family.
Deeper into the role
Osama remembers one situation that pushed him even deeper into his role as a volunteer:a dengue outbreak in Al Hudaydahthat made an already desperate situation in the governorate even worse.
While 20 million Yemeni people lacked access to basic healthcare, half of the country’s health facilities were either partially or completely damaged by war, leading to dramatic increases of endemic diseases and epidemics.
“The dengue epidemic reached our home where I live with 16 members of my family, including four children. It was difficult to access healthcare and even to purchase medicines due to the economic situation. I took my eight-year-old brother Rakan to the Health Centre of the Yemeni Red Crescent Society, hoping he would be cared for at the centre. He was treated there until the staff were certain that he had recovered and was not in danger anymore.
“This kind of assistance was not provided because of my work as a volunteer in the Red Crescent — it is available to all members of the community.The centre provides medical care services to all, and the number of beneficiaries is more than 1,700 people.”
“The moment I arrived at the centre, holding my brother in my arms, was like a dream. I went there as a person in need and was received by a team that helps everyone. I realised after my brother’s recovery that working with the Red Crescent was also an opportunity to give something back, to return the favour, so to speak."
In the meantime, this gregarious, outgoing volunteer can also nurture the stage actor that is always inside him, never far from the surface.
“Even if I cannot appear on stage, I can at least do this for the Yemeni Red Crescent Society as a volunteer and play around for the kids,” Osama says with a smile. “That makes me happy and proud.”
This story was produced and originally published by the Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine. To learn about the Magazine, and to read more stories like this,click here.
World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day 2023
Henry caring for the wounded in Solferino, Hilda helping hurricane victims in Port Vila, Mohamed monitoring the nutritional condition of the inmates in Baidoa prison, Yulima teaching first aid to people with disabilities in Maracay, and Luna rescuing migrants on the shore of Ceuta – they, like many Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers around the world, offer care, a hand of compassion and a life-changing breath of humanity to those who are most vulnerable. #FromTheHeart
Today, on World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, we celebrate the legacy of Henry Dunant – whose vision led to the creation of the worldwide Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement – and the countless volunteers who came after him. Their unwavering commitment and exemplary dedication to helping anyone in need, anywhere and to upholding our Fundamental Principles at all times – whether responding to natural hazards, climate crises, conflicts, health emergencies, displacement, or migration – is admired around the world.
We nonetheless face tremendous challenges in carrying out our humanitarian action in a world beset by uncertainty and so many complex and multi-dimensional crises.
International attention is diverted from protracted and low-visibility crises, and resources are lacking to ensure the continuity of aid to those most in need and sustain the local action of humanitarian organizations and workers who are closest to the affected communities.
Natural hazards, climatic disasters and health emergencies are multiplying and reaching unprecedented scale.
The parties involved in armed conflicts and violence often ignore some of the most basic rules of humanitarian law and hamper neutral and impartial humanitarian organizations’ access to vulnerable people – access that should be free and safe. While there are those who challenge humanitarian principles, principled humanitarian action is as vitally important as ever.
Our Red Cross and Red Crescent family is at the forefront of humanitarian assistance and ensuring protection for those who need it most. The world has increasingly seen how effective our Movement can be in addressing overlapping crises and providing principled humanitarian assistance. Our strength lies in our unity, our determination to carry forward the ideals of neutral, impartial, independent humanitarian action and our commitment to the humanitarian cause.
Today, we celebrate the millions of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and staff around the world, who every day in their respective countries, regions and communities carry forward the determination of Henry Dunant to provide hope and dignity in the midst of despair to people in vulnerable situations without distinction or thought of personal gain.
Happy World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day! #FromTheHeart
Mirjana Spoljaric, ICRC President
Mercedes Babé, Standing Commission Chair
Francesco Rocca, IFRC President
Honduran Red Cross: Kindness shines bright in local communities
It’s 8am on a peaceful Sunday morning in Copán Ruinas, a small, picturesque town in western Honduras that was formerly one of the most powerful cities in the Mayan empire.
Shopkeepers are starting to open their doors. A scattering of women and children play in the main square. And many locals – wearing their signature wide-brimmed hats – are heading out on their morning walks.
But one man stands out in his bright red vest and cap. A large Red Cross emblem and the words Cruz Roja Hondureña proudly emblazoned on the back. I watch for a moment as he chats to people in the village, who all seem to greet him warmly with a handshake or fist bump.
I catch up to him, say a friendly “¡Hola, amigo!” and learn his name is Stanley. A Red Cross volunteer for more than 22 years, he’s on his way to a meeting with fellow volunteers and staff from around their region. He invites me to visit the local branch later that afternoon to learn about what they do.
And so I did! And the welcome couldn’t have been warmer.
Over lunch, I learned that everyone had come together from across the region to share their stories, knowledge, and experiences of supporting their local communities through various crises and day-to-day challenges.
Let me tell you about three of the people I met: Mirian, Napoleón and Loany.
Mirian is the proud President of the Copán branch and has been volunteering for more than 10 years. Her branch runs the only two ambulances in the whole town, meaning that when someone gets into trouble, it’s her team that answers the call.
She oversees far more than emergency health services, though. Her branch does a lot of work helping local people, including indigenous groups living in the surrounding hills and schoolchildren, to be prepared for crises – such as hurricanes and floods.
Her branch is also supporting the growing number of migrants passing through Honduras on their way northwards, including, amongst other things, through Humanitarian Service Points: strategically located spaces where migrants can access safe and reliable support on their journeys.
“I am motivated by humanitarianism, by seeing how the Red Cross is an organization full of love for others. That we are people willing to give everything. For me, it’s the best thing that ever happened to me – being a member of the Red Cross family,” says Mirian.
Napoleón is based in San Pedro Sula, Honduras’ second largest city. He’s a former cameraman who has been volunteering as a driver for the Honduran Red Cross for five years.
A couple of years ago, Napoleón was one of many Honduran Red Cross volunteers who responded to devastating hurricanes Eta and Iota that ravaged the region.
He describes driving a large rescue truck through flood water so deep his vehicle nearly washed away. Despite treacherous conditions, he was able to reach and help rescue many stranded people, their belongings, and pets. He also assisted with the massive recovery and reconstruction effort, helping to put people’s lives and homes back together again.
The pride Napoleón takes in volunteering is written all over his face. His smile beams from ear to ear as he talks about supporting his fellow volunteers and rallying them together during a crisis.
“I like being a volunteer because you donate part of your life and you share feelings in helping humanity. It makes you feel good, feel satisfied, to be able to help,” says Napoleón.
Loany is also based in San Pedro Sula, but her role is a little different. She’s not a volunteer, instead she’s employed by the Honduran Red Cross to help volunteers.
She works with local branches, like the one in Copán, to improve their governance, financial management, and resource mobilization, so that their volunteers can provide better care and support to their communities.
While it might not sound as impressive as wading through flood waters to rescue survivors, Loany’s work is no less important. Strong local branches are the bedrock of the IFRC network. Without them, we can’t provide the fast, effective and local support that communities in crisis really need.
With one year’s experience, Loany is a relative newcomer to the Red Cross family. I asked her what working for the Red Cross means to her and whether she plans to continue:
“For me it means love, because wanting to do things well, wanting to help other people who are vulnerable or at risk, makes us give the best of ourselves as people. Now that I’ve entered the world of the Red Cross, I don’t know if I’ll ever leave!,” she says.
At the end of the volunteer meeting, the group disbands, bidding each other fond farewells.
I walk back to the main square in Copán, thinking about a word we often use in the humanitarian sector: ‘localization’.
It’s a jargon term. But what does it really mean?
I realise that, to me, it means Mirian, Napoleón and Loany: three people working hard within their local communities to make life better, safer, and brighter for those around them.
And it means Stanley: a man treading the same familiar streets for years in his hometown wearing his Red Cross vest. A man known, trusted, and respected by his local community, there for them through good times and bad.
International Volunteer Day 2022: Believe in the power of kindness
Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are everywhere.You’ll find them in your street, in your local community, in every corner of the world.You may even be one of them.
Every day, our millions of volunteers bring kindness to those who need it—no matter who or where they are.
Whether it’s by offering a hot drink or food,
Listening to someone and supporting their mental wellbeing,
Delivering essential supplies or cash to remote communities,
Giving or teaching lifesaving first aid,
Offering people on the move a safe space to rest,
Or helping communities adapt to climate change.
Acts of kindness like these, even if they sometimes feel small, make a huge difference to the lives of people in crisis.
Because kindness is powerful.And kindness is contagious—one small act can lead to another, and another, and another.
"Throughout the year, our millions of volunteers have been bringing hope and help to hundreds of millions of people around the world."
IFRC Secretary General
At the IFRC, we believe in our volunteers. We believe in the power of kindness.
Humanity, our first Principle, starts with kindness.
And we believe we can all #BeHumanKind.
"I want to thank our Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteerswho are responding to every emergency, in every corner of the world, also in this very moment."
On International Volunteer Day, as with every other day of the year, we deeply thank our incredible, unstoppable volunteers.
You are appreciated. You are supported. You are valued.
The IFRC was created to bring kindness – and kindness is needed more than ever
“The world is bleeding, and it needs help now”.
Stark words of warning from a humanitarian leader shaken by a brutal war and living under the shadow of a global pandemic.
I did not pen these words. They were written in 1919, by Henry Davison, the leader of the American Red Cross.
His big idea was that the world’s Red Cross societies – which were set up after the movement was created by Nobel Laureate Henry Dunant in 1863 – should come together as a force for good at all times, and not only during wars. Davison firmly believed the kindness and expertise shown by Red Cross volunteers should benefit humanity in other times as well.
And thus, the League of Red Cross Societies was born, on the 5th of May 1919. There were five founding Red Cross Societies – those of the United States of America, Italy, Japan, France, and the United Kingdom. By the end of that year, the League had 30 members.
The League changed its name to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies – the IFRC – in 1991. We now have 192 member National Societies, with more in formation.
The core of the idea has stayed the same while the scope of the IFRC network has grown massively, in reach and in impact.
In 2020, 14.9 million Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers reached more than 688 million people with disaster and other emergency response work; some 306 million with health activities, and 125 million with clean water and sanitation assistance.
These are impressive figures, but the scale of the humanitarian needs continues to grow every year. Right now, countless people across the world need urgent support.
The conflict in Ukraine and the stress placed on its neighbouring countries is just one example. The lingering physical, social and economic damages inflicted by the global COVID-19 pandemic is another. Alongside these disasters is the ever-present, and worsening, threat of climate change.
With challenges like these, can a simple idea – like the one that led in 1919 to what is now known as the IFRC – still help to heal the world? I believe it can – and will. We know what works, and we’ve been proving it for more than a century.
It’s one human being reaching out to support another human being in crisis, at the community level, where it is always needed the most.
It’s ensuring that local volunteers and local organizations have the resources, training and as much (or as little) international support as they need to respond to disasters and crises. It’s making sure their voices are heard, and their interests represented, on the international stage.
And it is working to bring that support to the most marginalized communities and individuals, no matter where they are, and without any discrimination as to who they are.
It is – put simply – kindness.
I first joined my National Society, the Nepal Red Cross, as a volunteer more than three decades ago. I was trusted – and therefore able to meet and support the people in greatest need – because I was part of their community, I spoke their language, and I understood their concerns. And the key to understanding what people needed was kindness.
Over the years, the IFRC has evolved alongside the communities we support. We have adapted our ways of working, expanded our expertise as different vulnerabilities and stressors emerge, and have been agile enough to pioneer and then mainstream new approaches to humanitarian support.
We have led on the development and widespread acceptance of cash assistance as the most effective and most respectful way to support people in need. After all, people who have lost everything in a disaster or conflict should not have to lose their dignity as well.
And we are driving change in how disaster risks are managed and reduced through anticipatory action, where local communities are supported to reduce their risks, and immediate funding can be triggered once scientifically-measured thresholds are reached.
None of this work would be possible without the kindness of our 14.9 million Red Cross and Red Crescent community-based volunteers.
On World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, 8th May, we will encourage people around the world to believe in the power of kindness and #BeHumanKIND.
The world is still bleeding. It still needs help. But there are nearly 15 million reasons to believe in kindness, and to have hope.
If you'd like to read more about the history of the IFRC, visit our history and archives page.
And check out the hashtag #BeHumanKIND across all social media channels this week to see how our National Societies are celebrating World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day.
Volunteer with us
You have the power to make a real difference in your community and support those in greatest need. By joining your local Red Cross or Red Crescent Society, you can save lives and change minds. Get involved today!
Young volunteers step up in Europe
By Ainhoa Larrea, IFRC
They are young, they are almost a million strong, and they are leading the humanitarian response against COVID-19 in Europe.
More than 850,000 young volunteers of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across Europe are making a difference for millions of people affected by the pandemic, despite being increasingly affected as the Delta variant spreads.
Many are becoming sick and being hospitalised, as the young are often the last to be vaccinated. In addition, they are disproportionately impacted by the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic, from unemployment to mental health problems. However, they are still stepping up to help.
Daria Tkachenko, a university student, is volunteering with Russian Red Cross in her free time. She visits older people who cannot leave their homes, delivering medicines and groceries.
“I remember well one of the women. She was a home front worker during World War II and served as a volunteer at a local branch of Russian Red Cross for years. She is a very active woman who always shines with optimism and joy; even now, when she is bedridden,” Daria said.
“Living in isolation amid the pandemic is a big challenge for many older people, and not only for them, but also for relatives who cannot help their loved ones. That is why volunteering is so important.”
She is also helping replenish low blood stocks. “Hospitals are in need of blood donors and blood components. I am proud that I donated blood, which in the future may save someone's life.”
Ludovica, a 27-year-old psychologist, spent last Christmas on one of the Italian Red Cross boats where those arriving in Italy by sea undergo mandatory isolation and COVID-19 testing. She provided critical mental health support to migrant and refugee children.
“During the time I was on board, there were 51 children mostly from North Africa and the Middle East. I organised educational and recreational activities with them: Italian language, card games, dance.
“I had to carry out most of the activities at a distance, behind a desk. The most valuable moments were those when I was close to the children. I would then play the role of the white wizard, as the safety protocol obliged me to dress in a white jumpsuit, mask, gloves, goggles, cap and boot covers,” Ludovica said.
Scientific evidence shows vaccination saves lives, but some young people are still unsure whether to get a jab or not. The Red Cross Red Crescent European Youth Network is playing its part with a joint social media campaign with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Participants encourage their peers to get immunised, sharing that the main side effect of COVID-19 vaccines is “a feeling of hope and solidarity.”
Other young people are directly involved in vaccination roll-outs. Srna Spasojevic, 15 years old, is one of the youngest volunteers of the Red Cross of Serbia. Every working day, from eight in the morning until 6pm, she updates the lists of those waiting to get immunised in the Novi Sad Fair.
“Sometimes you realise, when you are having a hard time, that there are others who are going through even worse. I am happy to be able to contribute to our country’s battle against the coronavirus,” Srna said.
There are many more young role models among the 54 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Europe, each one helping to protect communities and to stop the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our more than 16 million volunteers worldwide are the beating heart of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). They are our strength. They are what define us. And they help make the world a safer and more peaceful place every single day.
Empress Shôken fund 100th distribution announcement
The Empress Shôken Fund is named after Her Majesty the Empress of Japan, who proposed – at the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross – the creation of an international fund to promote relief work in peacetime.
It is administered by the Joint Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which maintains close contact with the Japanese Permanent Mission in Geneva, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Meiji Jingu Research Institute in Japan.
The Fund has a total value of over 16 million Swiss francs and supports projects run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to benefit their communities in various ways.
The first grant was awarded in 1921, to help five European National Societies fight the spread of tuberculosis. Since then, 169 National Societies have received 14 million Swiss francs. To mark the Fund’s 100th year of awarding grants, a short video was developed to highlight what the Fund stands for and showcase how it has supported National Societies through the years.
The imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross and the Japanese people revere the memory of Her Majesty Empress Shôken, and their enduring regard for the Fund is evident in the regularity of their contributions to it.
The grants are usually announced every year on 11 April, the anniversary of her death. This year the announcement is being published earlier due to the weekend.
The selection process
The Fund received 28 applications in 2021 covering a diverse range of humanitarian projects run by National Societies in every region of the world.
This year the Joint Commission agreed to allocate a total of 475,997 Swiss francs to 16 projects in Argentina, the Bahamas, Benin, Costa Rica, Estonia, Georgia, Iran, Kenya, Malawi, Nicaragua, Pakistan, the Philippines, Romania, South Sudan, Timor-Leste and Viet Nam.
The projects to be supported in 2021 cover a number of themes, including youth engagement, disaster preparedness, National Society development and health, especially the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Fund continues to encourage new and innovative approaches with the potential to generate insights that will benefit the Movement as a whole.
The 2021 grants
The Argentine Red Cross is taking an innovative approach to talent management using new technologies. It will use the grant to develop a talent-management module to be implemented in 65 branches, enabling the National Society to attract and retain employees and volunteers.
The Bahamas Red Cross Society will put the grant towards building staff and volunteers’ capacities and expanding its network on five islands, with a view to implementing community- and ecosystem-based approaches to reducing disaster risk and increasing climate resilience.
The Red Cross of Benin seek to help vulnerable women become more autonomous. The grant will support them in developing income-generating activities and building their professional skills.
The Costa Rica Red Cross will use the grant to enable communities in the remote Cabécar and Bribri indigenous territories to better manage emergencies, holding workshops on first aid, risk prevention and emergency health care in connection with climate events and health emergencies, including COVID-19.
The Estonia Red Cross is working to build competencies in four key areas, including in recruiting, training and retaining volunteers. The funds will support the development of a volunteer database to help effectively manage information, especially against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With widespread COVID-19 transmission in Georgia, the Georgia Red Cross Society is working to help national authorities limit the impact of the pandemic. It will put the grant towards promoting good hygiene and raising awareness of the importance of vaccination.
The Red Crescent Society of Islamic Republic of Iran is focused on building local capacity with youth volunteers by boosting small businesses in outreach areas. The grant will be used for training, capacity-building and development in local partner institutions, generating income for community members.
The COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions have affected how the Kenya Red Cross Society does its humanitarian work. The grant will be used to launch an online volunteer platform to encourage and facilitate youth volunteering.
The Malawi Red Cross Society must be ready to respond to disasters due to climate variability and climate change. The funds will allow the National Society to establish a pool of trained emergency responders who can swing into action within 72 hours of a disaster.
The Nicaraguan Red Cross is working to protect the elderly from COVID-19. The grant will be used in three care homes located in the municipalities of Somoto, Sébaco and Jinotepe to provide medical assistance, prevent and control infections, and promote mental health as a basic element of self-care through training and support sessions and other activities.
The Pakistan Red Crescent seeks to improve how it manages blood donations. The funds will enable the National Society to increase the capacity of its blood donor centre and raise awareness of voluntary unpaid blood donation by holding World Blood Donor Day in 2021.
The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) for All project of the Philippine Red Cross aims to develop WASH guidelines and promote them in the community. The grant will be used for training and capacity-building around providing health services in emergencies.
In Romania, teenagers in residential centres are vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence for a number of reasons, including a lack of both psychosocial education and staff trained in dealing with this kind of violence through trauma-informed care. The grant will enable the Red Cross of Romania to reduce the vulnerability of 60 teenagers in residential centres by increasing knowledge and aiding the development of safe relationships.
The South Sudan Red Cross is working to encourage young people to adapt to climate change by planting fruit trees. The grant will support this initiative, which aims to reduce the impact of climate change and increase food production.
In 2020 the Timor-Leste Red Cross launched an education programme aimed at increasing young people’s knowledge about reproductive health. The funds will be used to expand the programme – already active in five of the National Society’s branches – to the remaining eight branches.
The Viet Nam Red Cross aims to further engage with authorities and become more self-sufficient through fundraising. It will use the grant to build its personnel’s capacities by providing training courses on proposal writing, project management and social welfare.
By car, plane and boat: Reaching the most remote communities in Guyana
For the field team of the Guyana Red Cross, responding to COVID-19 has meant time away from families, thousands of miles by car, plane and boat, and arranging logistics for tons of cleaning and hygiene supplies destined for people living in remote corners of the country.
“We have a lot of small communities that do not necessarily have internet, they are usually reached by radio or by people travelling into the community themselves to share information,” said Andrea Phillips, Guyana Red Cross COVID-19 project manager and the team lead.
So that is what the Guyana Red Cross does. They work with indigenous communities, in migrant settlements, and at the markets in transportation hubs, sharing information about COVID-19 and how to stay safe and healthy.
Helping people stay safe
For some people their interaction with the four women that make up the team will be their only opportunity to ask questions about the disease that they have been hearing about from others.
“We have found that communities are very receptive to people who take the time to come into the community, share the information … give time for them to ask questions to ensure they are clearly able to understand,” Phillips said.
In St. Aslems, in Region 1, Joan Webber asked about how she would know if she or her family had come in contact with the virus.
The team had come to her community by power boat and Webber sat in her small dugout canoe as she learned about symptoms. She then received a bag with hand sanitizer, soap, laundry detergent, bleach, and other supplies she could use to protect herself and her family.
“People are pretty thankful for the activity and the fact that Red Cross is coming to the [river-based] communities to assist them,” said Samesta Martin-Forde, a Guyana Red Cross field officer.
“It has gone far, especially in these communities where, you have a lockdown, so they cannot access [sanitation supplies], or you have poor communities where they may not be able to supply themselves,” Phillips said.
Leaving no one behind
Getting to St. Aslems was no easy task. Alana Prescod, who handles logistics, oversaw moving everything from toothpaste to toilet paper from Guyana’s capital Georgetown, to Mabaruma about 250 kilometers away. But there are no roads, the tons of equipment had to be flown on two separate charter flights, before being trucked to the motel room where the team slept and that served as a temporary warehouse.
In the small, hot, and humid room the team worked with their masks on to pack the bags that would be given away.
“I am very happy with the team that we have. It’s a small team, but a hard-working team. Each person has a role on the team and we have been able to complement each other in a way that we’ve been able to deliver the service that’s required by working together,” said Phillips.
The bags were trucked to the docks to be loaded on to the boat that would take the team upriver. Over a two-day period, the team reached 80 families, moving up and down along a river. A community leader and a boat captain guided them in and out of the tight mangroves to people’s homes. The mornings were hot and sunny, but on the trip back to town the first day, it began to pour rain. The drops were hitting like needles as the speedboat raced to get them back and off the water.
When they completed the work, the immediately starting meeting with other leaders in the area, to see what was needed next and by who.
“I love helping persons, it always puts a smile on my face when you can give something to someone and they appreciate it, whether it is something big or something small and it makes me feel happy and I would say that’s why I am doing what I am today,” Prescod said.
Volunteers: the cornerstone of the response of the Red Cross in the Americas
In the Americas, Red Cross volunteers have proven to be the cornerstone for responding to communities in the region: carrying out inter-hospital transfers to COVID-19 patients in Mexico, working to rescue people affected by hurricanes Eta and Iota in Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, and more.
The International Federation has witnessed unprecedented humanity and goodness throughout 2020: Hundreds of thousands of volunteers have signed up to volunteer in their national societies, proving that even in these darkest times, there are incredible stories of hope.
Volunteering in times of COVID-19
In Mexico, more than 6,641 volunteers have worked in the response to the emergency created by COVID-19 in inter-hospital transfers, patient care, health education campaigns, and more in the 32 states of the country. In the relief area, many of the paramedic volunteers have decided to isolate themselves from their families, to continue helping in the emergency response, and avoid infecting their loved ones.
"I've been living in a rental house for three months with other colleagues," says Diego Arcos, head of the motorized section of the Mexican Red Cross. "I think the most complicated thing for us in caring for COVID patients is that you don't see what you're fighting against, and you don't see the end of it."
“I understand the desperation of being at home, the desperation of being locked up, but what we want is to go home, and we are only going to achieve it if people take care of themselves and follow safety protocols: wearing masks, washing hands, using antibacterial gel. If we all follow the instructions that are being put forth by the health sector, not just in Mexico, but also worldwide, we are sure that sooner we will be able to go outside or go home for us working in the response.”
Volunteers like Diego, during this pandemic, have made a selfless, supportive, and humanitarian effort to combat COVID-19: their work has been fundamental in education and prevention tasks, as well as in treating patients suspicious or positive.
Volunteering in Emergencies: Responses to Hurricanes Eta and Iota
Climate-related disasters have not stopped in times of COVID-19: 28 of the 35 countries in the Americas are classified as medium, high, or very high risk in terms of exposure to climate-related disasters according to the latest World Report from Disasters, and hurricanes Eta and Iota that hit Central America and Colombia in November, are an example of the risk in the region. Volunteers from the Americas have been an example of solidarity action in the response to the emergency caused by hurricanes Eta and Iota.
During the month of November, the tropical phenomena ETA and IOTA made landfall in Nicaragua, and then caused floods, landslides, damage to infrastructure, homes and crops in Central America and Colombia, with great damage especially in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala.
In Nicaragua, more than 180 people have been volunteers in Operation Eta and Iota, supporting more than 33,000 people in the North Caribbean areas of the country: Prinzapolka, Bilwi, Waspan, Rivas. As part of the response to the hurricanes, the volunteers carried out tasks for the preparation prior to the impacts of Eta and Iota and humanitarian actions after the passage of both storms, such as: psychosocial support, water and sanitation, and hygiene promotion. In this way, the volunteers of the Nicaraguan Red Cross continue to demonstrate the true commitment of humanity in the movement.
“To help others, it is important to stay united, have a positive mind, be persistent and empathetic. We do everything with love and always committed to health for everyone,” explains one of the psychosocial support volunteers from the Nicaraguan Red Cross.
Volunteers in the Americas, and around the world, have witnessed unprecedented humanity and goodness: they are the engine of humanity, perseverance, and solidarity of the Red Cross movement in every corner of the continent.
For more information, visit the Volunteering Development Platform (VODPLA), where an interactiveVolunteering mapof activities and projects displays the humanitarian initiatives, activities and projects carried out by volunteers in the region.
“Volunteering saved my life”
By Georgia Trismpioti, IFRC
Jack is an Iranian engineer living in Greece. Back home in Tehran he owned his own construction company and was surrounded by a close-knit group of friends, colleagues and family. But that all changed one day.
“I had to leave Tehran because my life was in danger. It was a difficult and horrible experience having to make the journey to Greece,” Jack says.
“No one can imagine what it’s like being forced to leave your home, fearful for your life, unless they’ve been through it. I miss my friends and family, my job and the life I had.”
Life wasn’t easy when he first arrived in Greece. He was homeless and destitute. But determined to rebuild his life from scratch, he kept his spirits up by working as a volunteer for various charities in Thessaloniki.
“Volunteering saved my live. Without it I would have lost the will to live,” he says quietly.
Two months after arriving in Greece, Jack managed to enrol in the cash assistance programme run by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
“That money gave me hope. The first thing I bought was a tent. Until then, I was sleeping rough in Diavata Camp,” says Jack with a bittersweet smile.
Sometime later he started working as a volunteer for the IFRC. He helps other asylum seekers navigate the Greek system and boost their self-confidence and resilience. ''We are asylum seekers but we can also have achievements.''
Then in November 2019 Jack successfully applied for the position of the Cultural Mediator with IFRC. Being an asylum seeker himself helps him understand better than anyone the everyday challenges people face.
Now he’s waiting for a decision on his own asylum application, so he can pursue his dream of practising as an engineer in Greece.
“Greece gave me protection, so Greece is like my home now. There is no word that can describe what that feeling is like,” he smiles. “Greece has given me freedom and safety.”
“My life will never be the same again.” Finding new purpose amid COVID-19
By Anette Selmer-Andresen, IFRC
Challenging situations can also mean a fresh start. For 28-year-old Genghis Khan from Kyrgyzstan the COVID-19 pandemic changed his whole life.
“The crisis forced me out of my comfort zone and gave me a chance to change. I am grateful for such an opportunity, because my life will never be the same,” says Genghis Khan, now an avid Red Crescent volunteer.
Living a Groundhog Day
“Before the pandemic, each day of my life was like the other. You could say that I lived a Groundhog Day for the last five years,” he explains.
Genghis was working as a banker, but was not happy with his life. “Many times, I promised myself that I would change my life. I thought that I would only work for another year, and then look for a new job. But time flew by and before I knew it, I had been a bank employee for five years.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government of Kyrgyzstan declared a state of emergency at the end of March. All office workers needed to work remotely and Genghis was isolated at home.
“Honestly, in the beginning I was lost,” he says. “What should I do with all this free time?”
One day, while browsing the internet, he came across an ad by the Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan. They were looking for volunteers to help with COVID-19 preventive activities.
“I’d never done anything like that before and I didn't understand why volunteering was necessary.” Still, Genghis decided to give it a try.
As soon as he began volunteering, Genghis was impressed by the atmosphere of solidarity among the volunteers.
“It felt almost like we were a family. I was impressed by the courage of the volunteers. They gave their time and put their health in danger to help those in need.”
A life-changing experience
Volunteering for the Red Crescent has been an eye-opener for Genghis. He realized that there are vulnerable people in his community who need help.
“To be honest, being able to help old and lonely people or single mothers with many children, brought tears to my eyes,” he admits.
Through volunteering, Genghis has learned some important life lessons and feels that he has changed as a person.
“My life will not be the same again. Before I was in some way selfish and cared only about myself. Now everything is different, I realized how important it is to help others. I love this organization with all my heart.”
World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day 2020
Dear Red Cross and Red Crescent colleagues, dear friends,
On this World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, we are especially proud to recognize the work of our volunteers and staff who are on the frontline responding to the growing needs of communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. They sow kindness and solidarity around the globe and provide hope and dignity in the midst of despair. The incredible spirit of our volunteers all over the world during this crisis is not only a cause for admiration but also a source of inspiration for others to get involved too.
World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day is an opportunity to show our collective gratitude to our 13 million volunteers for their exemplary dedication to the humanitarian cause and our Fundamental Principles and also to thank them for their kindness, bravery and selflessness.
On 8 May this year, we find ourselves physically distant from one another, but we are closer than ever as we walk the path towards humanity. We are truly united in this crisis. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has always been there, close to the people who need us most when times have been the toughest, when hope might seem so far out of reach.
During these challenging times, our National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also demonstrate that we are united in our dedication to help people in distress. The original intent of Henry Davison, one of the founding fathers of our organization founded in the aftermath of 1918 flu pandemic is still our intent of today: ‘‘We get together for the purpose of finding a way of contributing to the world the benefit of our experience with the purpose of co-ordinating the efforts of all of the National Societies of the world in the interest of mankind.’’
This year, we are witnessing an unprecedented time, which is pushing all of us to adapt to new ways of volunteering and working together and with our communities. Although our proximity to vulnerable people and communities is being transformed, we continue to make a difference in people’s lives. And in these times of physical distancing, we have also learnt to comfort and show solidarity from afar, continuing to create social connections and develop a sense of belonging.
Our ability to respond to this crisis determines the consequences for vulnerable populations and for all of us globally. We need to address this global pandemic with the approach that “no one is safe until we are all safe”. As never before, the safety and well-being of everyone is critical for the safety and well-being of the entire world.
Today’s world is in a state of constant upheaval and permanent crisis, but whatever the problem – a natural hazard, the climate crisis, conflict or migration – Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are visible ambassadors for peace and solidarity and active players in shaping the future of our communities and countries. In these trying times, their commitment and dedication, as first responders and local actors, to alleviating human suffering remains strong and powerful.
Today we celebrate our women and men, the young and old, every single person who continues to make the idea of the Red Cross and Red Crescent a reality each day. We celebrate our efforts to reach the most vulnerable and ensure that no one is left behind. We celebrate the support of our families for our dedication to humanity. And we celebrate our Red Cross and Red Crescent Family. We can truly say we are needed now more than ever. To quote our founder Henry Dunant: “Everyone can, in one way or another, each in their sphere and according to their strength, contribute to some extent to this good work.”
We thank you all and clap in solidarity with you.Happy Red Cross and Red Crescent Day!
We would ask all Red Cross and Red Crescent Presidents and Secretaries General to kindly pass our message on to the staff and volunteers of their National Societies.
Jagan Chapagain Francesco Rocca
Secretary General President
COVID-19: Young people have the power to bring light to the world
While communities and countries across the globe work to limit the impact of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, the world’s Big 6 Youth Organisations have joined forces to remind young people that “heroes are born from terms of adversity”.
The Big 6 - the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the World Alliance of Young Men’s Christian Associations (YMCA), World Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), World Organization of the Scout Movement, World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, and The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation – have also suggested six ways in which young people can build their own leadership skills and boost their resilience while also lifting community spirits and providing vital volunteer services.
In a statement released today, the Big 6 said: “As young leaders of the world, you have - and will continue to have - a valuable role in the global response to and recovery from the COVID19 pandemic. It is you volunteering, you lifting the spirits of communities and you lighting the world with your action.
“We recognize that during these challenging times, both as individuals and as communities, we need to take a moment to remind ourselves that it is OK not to be OK. This is a time to care for each other, but importantly to look after ourselves: our own health and our own wellbeing. This period will pass and we will come away from it stronger, a generation of responsible and resilient citizens.”
IFRC has suggested a ready-to-use Wellbeing Kit for youth from the China Red Cross, Hong Kong Red Cross Branch with activities for children and adolescents to be carried out alone or accompanied by an adult, focusing on mental health.
For more information and links to the Big 6’s free activities and advice, please click here.
"Volunteering gave me a new life"
A warm smile, calm voice, kind words and a lot of laughter. Raoa'a Abo Alaban, 24, a community volunteer of Jordan Red Crescent is visiting Sadel, 10, in her family’s home. The two are happily chatting about friends, favorite school subjects and future plans. One could not guess that just a few weeks ago Sadel was deeply disconsolate and afraid to even leave the house.
“There’s always been a lot of bullying at school, but this fall it escalated into a violent incident in which Sadel was attacked and badly beaten”, Sadel's mother says.
After the incident Sadel was too terrified to go to school. Her family then contacted Raoa'a, who like them is also from Syria, lives in the same community and is well known for her volunteering with the Red Crescent. Raoa'a started to visit Sadel to provide her with emotional support and encouragement.
“Raoa'a has been calling us, visiting us, inviting Sadel and our whole family to go play with her children. She has really helped Sadel to fight her anxiety and become a more happy, curious and active ten-year-old again”, Sadel’s mother says.
Thanks to all the support and encouragement from her family and Raoa'a, Sadel is bravely continuing her studies with good marks. Together with Sadel's mother, Raoa'a is also trying to raise awareness about anti-bullying at the school and within their community.
Raoa'a started to volunteer with the Jordan Red Crescent Society three years ago. She has received many trainings and new skills from the Red Crescent, for example about community-based health, first aid and psycho-social support.
"Volunteering gave me a new life. Before, I stayed at home a lot, and did not have many people to talk to. Through volunteering, I've met so many new people from my community, both Syrians and Jordanians. I have become more open myself”, Raoa'a says.
A mother of three and a Syrian refugee living in a predominantly Jordanian neighborhood, Raoa'a has become the link between many Syrians and Jordanians in her community, bringing people together.
Raoa'a is very passionate about volunteering, and especially working with children.
“Helping others is something that comes very naturally for me. I’m sure I will continue volunteering in the future, whether it’s here in Jordan or back home in Syria”, she says.
Photo and words by Mirva Helenius / IFRC
“Sometimes all they need is to be heard.” Volunteer profile - Senka Vuković, the Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Katarina Zoric, IFRC
Although she’s been volunteering for more than 30 years, 70-year-old Senka Vuković is not yet tired of it. On the contrary, this retired teacher is full of life, very active and has a lot to offer to people around her.
“Volunteering is my lifestyle. Through it, I’ve experienced many happy as well as many sad moments and I'm grateful for all of them”, says Senka.
Her first contact with the Red Cross was in elementary school and she knew right away that one day she’d become a volunteer. She started volunteering part-time and became more and more engaged with helping others.
“I loved working with children the most. I was especially happy every time we had a chance to take kids from low income families to the seaside for summer holidays. Those children saw the sea for the first time and bringing a smile to their faces is still the most rewarding thing I can think of,” she says.
Senka experienced a lot of painful moments too. Most of them happened during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Memories of injured people, innocent victims and thousands who had to leave their homes and families are still vivid.
Because of this, she deeply understands people who are forced to leave their homes today. Together with her colleagues from the Red Cross of Bihac City in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Senka has spent the last 18 months helping migrants in Una-Sana Canton, especially those who are separated from their families.
“I understand how difficult it is for them and I try to help them to get in touch with their families. I talk with them, listen what they’re saying and sometimes all they need is to be heard,” she says.
Everything she has learned during her years of volunteering, Senka gladly shares with her younger colleagues.
“I’m giving them my wisdom and in return, they’re keeping me young”, she concludes with a smile.
Red Cross joins EU Aid Volunteers initiative
Four European Red Cross societies and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) joined EU Aid Volunteers, a programme of the European Commission that provides opportunities to European citizens to get involved in humanitarian aid projects, support the provision of needs-based humanitarian aid in third countries and engage in volunteering opportunities through deployment and online volunteering. A two-year project named EU Aid Volunteers - Enhancing Aid Capacities is implemented by the IFRC in partnership with the Red Cross societies of Austria, Bulgaria, Italy and The Netherlands.
The project’s overall objective is to improve the capability of potential sending organizations to provide quality support, managing enhanced pools of competent volunteers and staff for emergency response and improving remote support of operations. European Red Cross societies can become a sending organization by completing a certification process that enables them to deploy volunteers in emergencies of non-EU countries through the EU Aid Volunteers scheme.
There are four learning events planned for 2019 that are partially funded through the EU Aid Volunteers initiative: Cash Assistance and Coordination, Assessment and Planning (CAP) for Red Cross Red Crescent Operations trainings taking place in Bulgaria, as well as Information Management and Coordination/Assessment trainings to be hosted in Austria.
To find out more about the EU Aid Volunteers project, visit the official webpage.
Reema from Qatar Red Crescent: I encourage Arab women to be part of the emergency surge system
“My dream is to go back to Cox Bazaar and meet the two years old twins, a boy and a girl called Reema, named after me,” said Reema Al-Merekhi, a volunteer with the Qatar Red Crescent who was deployed in 2017 to Bangladesh to assist displaced communities from Myanmar. By then Reema, assisted the pregnant mother to access life-saving health services when her labor started. “I will never forget the joy I felt when I held the twins in my arms. Even in disasters situations, life continues, and hope prevails,” she said.
Reema is a member of IFRC Field Assessment and Coordination Team (FACT) that is mandated to assist people in need as soon as a disaster happens. She is one of few women from the Middle East who are on the surge list, ready to be deployed whenever needed. “I recommend that Arab women from MENA Red Crescent and Red Cross should be represented in the surge system. It is important for localization and ensuring that MENA national societies can support each other in emergencies.”
Reema believes that the deployment has increased her: “Confidence in myself and my negotiating skill with host and partner national societies and has given me a better understanding of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. The best moments are when you work with volunteers to assist the people who are in need.”
Initially Reema felt overwhelmed with the scale of the population movement and the scope of the needs. “It was tough, all the displaced people were in need. The number of people arriving to Cox Bazar increased day by day. We had to prioritize our work and use our FACT training and QRC experience to know where to start,” she said.
During her 45-day deployment, Reema undertook emergency needs assessments and supervised distributions to affected communities. During her mission to Cox Bazaar, Reema trained 20 Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BRC) volunteers in emergency needs assessment, ensuring sustainability of quality service delivery after the end of her deployment.
Reema Al-Merekhi attended the IFRC’s Global Surge Meeting in Geneva last month, which brought together 80 participants to discuss progress against the IFRC’s surge optimisation process. Reema, a volunteer with the Qatar Red Crescent since 2013 and a QRC Board Member, was FACT trained in 2016 in Doha.
After violence in Rakhine state, Myanmar, on 25 August 2017, more than 700,000 people crossed the border into Bangladesh. Since then, BRC supported by the IFRC and Red Cross and Red Crescent partners from around the world, has reached more than 250,000 people with emergency help including healthcare, food, water and shelter. More than 160,000 people have received medical care.
| Press release
IFRC condemns killing of Mexican Red Cross volunteer
Geneva, 19 November 2018 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) strongly condemns the attack on a Mexican Red Cross relief distribution yesterday (18 November) in Guerrero State that claimed the life of one volunteer and injured six others.
According to the Mexican Red Cross, the distribution was taking pace in the town of San Juan Tenería, in the municipality of Taxco when it came under armed attack.
IFRC President Francesco Rocca said:
“Our thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims of this incident. This attack on humanitarian personnel is completely unacceptable and we join the Mexican Red Cross in calling for an immediate investigation.
“Above all, we stand in solidarity with our Mexican Red Cross brothers and sisters. We are one global family, and today we all feel their loss deeply.
“National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are neutral and impartial organizations. Their only focus is on serving the most vulnerable. Humanitarian volunteers and staff are not a target.”