Young Volunteers! The Geneva Red Cross Youth

October 30, 2013

For more than ten years, the Geneva Red Cross Youth has been devoted to giving young volunteers aged 16 to 30 the opportunity to serve the community by helping those in need, acting in total accordance with the seven fundamental principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, volunteering, unity and universality. Together, these seven principles make up the core of the strong and worldwide family that are Red Cross volunteers.
Yet the story of the Red Cross is much older, beginning in 1863 thanks to the efforts of Genevan citizen Henry Dunant. On a business trip to meet Emperor Napoleon III, Dunant accidentally stumbled upon the devastation following the bloody Battle of Solferino in the Italian countryside. There he found wounded soldiers of either side, lying helplessly about on the battlefield, with little or no medical assistance. At that time, military medicine, ambulances and first aid were virtually inexistent, and these soldiers were left to starve, bleed and die in atrocious conditions, and without any comfort or help. Faced with such horror, Dunant decided to help as best he could, mobilising the locals with the shout of « Tutti fratelli » (« We are all brothers »), in an effort to soothe the suffering all around. Back in Geneva, he wrote about his experiences in a book entitled A Memory of Solferino, which shook society down to its very foundations and pushed for greater aid to the sick and wounded in battle. Together with some of his fellow citizens, Dunant called on governments to better protect their wounded soldiers, laying the foundations for later international humanitarian law in the shape of the Geneva Conventions. He also promoted the creation of national aid committees to assist sick and wounded soldiers, which became the Red Cross societies.
Today, the Red Cross family consists of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which intervenes primarily in armed conflicts throughout the world to protect the wounded, prisoners of war and civilians, and attempt to safeguard the Geneva Conventions ; the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies (IFRC), which coordinates aid between sister Red Cross societies and provides assistance during natural disasters ; and the 187 individual national Red Cross societies, which provide humanitarian aid within their country. Amongst these is the Swiss Red Cross, of which the Geneva Red Cross is a local branch. Inside this local branch, the Geneva Red Cross Youth acts as the focal point from which young people in Geneva work towards the universal Red Cross goal: indiscriminately helping those who suffer, or alleviate those suffering due to poverty.
In order to do so, the Geneva Red Cross Youth brings together volunteers of various ages, nationalities, languages and backgrounds, and gives today’s youth the chance to make a difference in the individual lives of the needy, as well as help the community as a whole in bettering the lives of the many. More specifically, the Geneva Red Cross Youth volunteer program gives you the opportunity to meet a whole range of people, be they children, elderly people, other volunteers, or Geneva citizens in general.
Want to make a difference?
Whether you have two hours of your time to give per week, or two hours per month, you can do something. It is by doing small actions that you can make a big difference. Here are some of the many activities we need your help for:
–          For those who speak French fluently, have patience and devotion, and enjoy the company of children, we are seeking volunteers for participation in activities ranging from after-school care, to homework assistance, to visits at the Geneva children’s hospital.
–          For those who speak fluent French, care for the well-being and happiness of the elderly, and would like to preserve them from loneliness, we encourage you to join our program of weekly visits to old folks for a few hours of pleasant chats and great company.
–          For those with busy schedules who wish to help but have only little spare time, we organise one-off fundraising activities throughout the year during which volunteers can participate for as little or as much time as they desire to collect funds for our after-school care centres for underprivileged children.  Our coming-soon activities are our annual bingo that will take place on Sunday November 3rd and our gift-wrapping campaigns in some of our partner stores (Nature & Découverte and Payot) in December.
Finally, for those students passionate about social work and philanthropy, and who choose to take part in the aforementioned activities with children and the elderly, we offer free training sessions in the key areas of our work:
–          Basic training (obligatory for all long-term volunteers) which teaches the history, principles and values of the Red Cross Movement, as well as information on its volunteers and main actors.
–          Teacher training for those who wish to teach future volunteers the Basic Training Program, and which is ideal for any students interested in a teaching or pedagogical career.
–          A Diversity Training Program which centers on the four broad domains of communication, cultural identity, conflict resolution and tolerance. This training also provides good preliminary skills for students wishing to pursue careers in diplomacy, social studies, mediation or communication.
–          Young Leader Training for those wishing to invest themselves more fully in the Geneva Red Cross Youth, or who want to learn about project management, group leadership or fundraising. This set of skills will also come in handy for future studies in business management or politics.
Last but not least, volunteering for the Geneva Red Cross Youth also opens up possibilities of working closely with other Red Cross organisms such as the ICRC or IFRC.
Volunteering is at the basis of the Movement that is the Red Cross. Without its volunteers, every National Society wouldn’t be as strong and powerful as they are now. By acting locally, and trying to give a positive response to local suffering, the Geneva Red Cross Youth gives priority to projects dedicated to disadvantaged children, children living in centres for asylum seekers, and isolated elders. It is the combination of all the local and national initiatives that make the Movement of the Red Cross the most important humanitarian network worldwide. Gabriela, 17 years old, is one of our volunteers from the International School of Geneva – La Grande Boissière Campus, who kindly gave some of her time for the Geneva Red Cross Youth. Her participation began due to the International Baccalaureate requirements and she chose to dedicate her time to accompanying the elderly, visiting a retirement home every two weeks. « I loved it so much that I just wanted to go spend some time with the people there. I had a lot of fun every time », she remembers fondly. Not only did Gabriela make new friends through volunteering, but she also learned more about herself: « This experience was very useful for me because it showed me that I really want to study Psychology ». Besides guiding her in her choice of future studies, the Geneva Red Cross Youth experience also showed Gabriela the importance of volunteering in bringing people together and setting a good example for others to follow. « I think volunteers are very important because they allow things to get done, their help is very necessary » she concludes. Gabriela’s experience is but one of many to be had, and if her story appeals to you, come join our team here at the Geneva Red Cross Youth.
All in all, volunteering with us gives students a unique opportunity to meet new people of all ages, participate in fulfilling experiences, learn a wide range of skills that better prepare them for the future, and, ultimately, make new life-long friends.
Personal Projects (encadré)
Want to help with your own personal project? The Geneva Red Cross Youth is also open to any student suggestions or fundraising projects. Only last year, four students from the International School of Geneva – La Grande Boissière Campus organised a photography exhibition at the NEST POP-UP gallery in Geneva’s old town, displaying photos from around the world. They managed to raise the large sum of 2000 Swiss francs, which they generously donated entirely to the Geneva Red Cross Youth. We thank them warmly for this wonderful project organised by young people, for young people. Have any ideas of your own? We’ll be happy to hear your thoughts! 

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