From IHL Action Campaign to National Youth Council: Staying Connected to the American Red Cross after Graduation
It was an August just like any other. I was preparing to head back to school to begin my junior year at Bradley University, but I was also coming home after interning in Washington, DC for the summer and I was full of anticipation about spending my upcoming spring semester in Denmark. I never would have guessed that I was about to enter a semester that would end up being so life changing in every sense of the word.
Shortly before the school year began, International Services made its debut at the Central Illinois Red Cross chapter. This was big news for an International Studies major like me who was dying for some relevant professional development smack dab in the middle of the United States. Before long, my university had formed a team for the International Humanitarian Law Action Campaign (IHLAC). I scrambled to join and struggled my way through my first Raid Cross training. Little did I know, I would go through the training at least three more times – as a participant, organizer and facilitator. With each passing day, email or meeting, I became more involved and began to look for more ways to be a part of the American Red Cross. Before this, my only experiences had been with Biomedical Services. I knew the Red Cross did humanitarian work overseas, but I couldn’t figure out how to be involved locally until IHLAC came into my life.
Once I came back from my semester abroad, I had the chance to intern with my chapter in their International and Military Services Department. I was part of a two-person team and quickly surrounded myself with all of the different programs. I became a Restoring Family Links (RFL) and Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) Caseworker. I was able to help train other students on Raid Cross and work with my own IHLAC team to start the work for our fall campaign. I also created an internal training guide for staff and volunteers on the ins and outs of the RFL program. I looked so hard for more ways to increase my Red Cross involvement. I couldn’t seem to get enough of it.
It seems as though my final year at Bradley was consumed by IHL. First, we had our fall campaign where freshman students were put through a simulated prisoner of war experience. That was quickly followed up by another round of Raid Cross and the creation, development and execution of our spring campaign on refugees. I had also spent the semester interning remotely for National Headquarters and their IHL Youth Education team. Before I knew it, I was weeks away from graduation and the future of my Red Cross involvement was left in limbo. I wasn’t ready to move on from my chapter because I couldn’t convince myself that I was okay with no longer being an IHLAC Team Member.
Then I found the answer: One day I stumbled across this fantastic group known as the National Youth Council (NYC). The NYC is a group of 13 members ranging in age from 16-25 and two adult advisers who “nationally represent the youth volunteers of the American Red Cross, and continually strive to better serve them.” This is what I was looking for. I could go into a new chapter of my life and I could bring the Red Cross with me. There was no reason not to apply, so I sat down and put my biggest Red Cross youth volunteer dreams onto paper.
Three months after doing that, I sit here as one of seven new members on the council. The other 12 members are some of the most inspiring, dedicated and encouraging people I have ever had the opportunity to work with…and it is only the beginning! I am starting my two-year term with big dreams to increase youth involvement nationwide, especially when it comes to International Services. I want every volunteer to know about these incredible programs. Maybe their lives will change — mine sure did.
– Shannon Vance, National Youth Council member and former IHLAC participant
Have you ever wondered how other Red Cross and Red Crescent societies around the world are educating young people about humanitarian issues? The Humanitarian Education Learning Portal (HELP), created by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Cross Societies (IFRC) in July 2014, allows Red Cross youth, volunteers, and educators to learn about interactive projects and initiatives created by different national societies worldwide. These projects and initiatives are geared towards helping youth understand situations from a humanitarian perspective and empowering them to act in accordance with the 7 Fundamental Principles. Each project available on the platform is accompanied by a brief description, along with contact information for the coordinator of the project and the website where further details can be found. There are two platforms within HELP through which users can search for these projects: a world map where viewers can click on a particular country to learn about their activities, and a discussion forum where program coordinators can post their projects and receive feedback from other users.
HELP is a user-friendly platform for Red Cross and Red Crescent societies to share their best humanitarian education projects and initiatives. Through sharing this information, societies can receive feedback and borrow best practices in order to develop a multitude of creative projects that successfully educate their youth communities about humanitarianism. HELP aims to increase the flow of information between different societies, helping to connect them to the larger movement.
HELP is a great resource if you would like creative project ideas for your youth program or would just like to learn more about the activities of other Red Cross and Red Crescent societies. If your Red Cross chapter has developed a project that you think should be posted on this portal, please contact Yenisleidy Simon Mengana at Yenisleidy.Simonmengana@redcross.org
You can create a free account here to join the HELP community.
Photo caption: IHL Action Campaign, an American Red Cross youth education program, teaches youth about International Humanitarian Law. Here students share their campaign on the topic of child soldiers.
In 2005 and 2008, I saw two heartbreaking earthquakes occur in Pakistan and I’ll never forget them. Though I wasn’t directly impacted, I was there to experience communities come together in partnership with organizations such as the Red Crescent Society (that’s what the Red Cross is called in Pakistan) and the United Nations, to help those in need. Seeing action after tragedy inspired me to get more involved in local my local community. Because of my great passion for humanitarian missions, I was thrilled to be selected as an intern for the Consumer Fundraising Team at the American Red Cross in Washington, DC.
I’m in the middle of my internship now and I’m learning so much. From sitting in on direct response strategy meetings, to brainstorming fundraising tactics that will inspire my peers – everything is quite exciting. I’ve also been able to attend Intern Program Events where we hear inspiring stories from Red Cross employees and learn professional development skills to help us further our careers once our internships are complete. I have gained so much knowledge in the past few weeks and have a better understanding of how a nonprofit organization works and how dedicated the workers and volunteers are to their profession.
I’m thrilled about the insights I’ve learned so far, and it’s fascinating to see how the organization implements creative strategies that help move the mission forward.
I started doing volunteer community service and ended up at such a wonderful place with an incredible mission. I really look forward to learning even more and making the most out of my internship. All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better summer this year!
The National Youth Council is incredibly excited to welcome seven new youth members and one new advisor to the team! The selection process was highly competitive, and it was truly inspiring to see the dedication of the American Red Cross’ amazing youth volunteers and youth leaders through the applications.
It is an absolute pleasure to introduce the new youth members and advisor of the National Youth Council!
Waverly He is a sophomore at Harvard College studying Neurobiology and Computer Science. Waverley is the Co-Director of Blood Services at the Harvard Red Cross Club and volunteers as a First Aid/CPR/AED instructor. Prior to college, Waverley was heavily involved with the Southwest Washington Youth Council in Vancouver, Washington. In addition, Waverley received the Navin Narayan Scholarship in 2014.
Eugen Cotei is a junior at Rancho High School Medical Academy in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is the Founder and President of his school’s Red Cross Club, and serves at the President of the Youth Leadership Committee of the Nevada Red Cross Chapter. Furthermore, Eugen helps spearhead the Nevada Chapter’s Youth Leadership Development Camp and is a Red Cross Blood Recruiter.
Miki Rai is a sophomore at UCLA studying Nursing. Miki has volunteered with the Northern California Coastal Region in a multitude of leadership capacities, including the Silicon Valley Board of Directors, the Northern California Regional Youth Executive Board, and the Silicon Valley Youth Executive Board. Furthermore, Miki has been a First Aid/CPR/AED Instructor for over two years.
Sally Yin is a junior at the University of Michigan studying Cellular and Molecular Biology. Sally serves as the National Collegiate Officer of the Crossroads Division’s National Collegiate Assembly, and is the Blood Services Chair of the University of Michigan’s Red Cross Club. Prior to college, Sally was the Vice President of Skyline High School’s Red Cross Club.
Kriyana Reddy is a senior at Bartow International Baccalaureate High School in Winter Haven, Florida. Kriyana volunteers with the Office of Volunteer Services in the Central Florida Region, and is passionate about youth involvement within International Services. In addition, Kriyana is a Pillowcase Project Youth Instructor.
Swati Guin is a senior at Dulaney High School in Baltimore, Maryland. Swati is the Founder and President of her high school’s Red Cross Club, and interns with Youth Services at the Chesapeake Region. Furthermore, Swati is the 2014-2015 High School Red Cross Volunteer of the Year of the Greater Chesapeake Region.
Shannon Vance is a recent graduate of Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. Shannon was the International Humanitarian Law Action Campaign Liasion Chair of her Red Cross Club, and was an International Services Intern with the Red Cross in Central Illinois. Furthermore, Shannon was an International Humanitarian Law Youth Education Intern at National Headquarters.
Suzanne Anderson has been the Volunteer Manager of the North Jersey Region since 2009. She founded the North Jersey Regional Youth Council, and she
currently advises over fifteen High School and College Red Cross Clubs. Suzanne is an instructor in International Services, Disaster, PHSS, and the Pillowcase Project. Furthermore, Suzanne has been a member of the Community Emergency Response Team since 2008.
Thank you to the Red Cross communities of these individuals for supporting them along their Red Cross journeys, and for helping them grow and thrive as American Red Cross volunteers.
We would also like to recognize the members who have rotated off the National Youth Council:
Former Positions: Vice Chair, Youth Working Group Lead, Creator of Office Hours
Former Positions: Vice Chair, Chapter Working Group Lead
Former Positions: Vice Chair, Communications Lead, YouthWire Editor, redcrossyouth.org Editor
Former Positions: Communications Lead, redcrossyouth.org Editor
Former Positions: Youth Working Group Lead, Creator of Connect Tour
Former Positions: Field Relations Lead, Chapter Communications Training Lead, NCA Liaison, NYIM Lead, Chapter Working Group Lead
Former Positions: Navin Narayan Scholarship Committee Lead, Creator of End of Year Transition Packet
Former Positions: Well-loved and Valued Advisor
Thank you all for your efforts and accomplishments for the National Youth Council and for the American Red Cross. You will definitely be missed, and we know that you will all continue to do amazing things as volunteers and as individuals!
The IHL Action Campaign is an exciting youth program of the American Red Cross. Through the IHL Action Campaign, you learn about International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and then create and implement your own campaign in order to teach your peers about the importance of these rules of war. In the 2014-15 year, young people participating in the IHL Action Campaign directly reached more 54,000 people both in person and online through simulations, videos, skits, art displays, trivia games, social media campaigns, presentations, and more.
To get involved, contact your local chapter. National Headquarters is offering grant funding to chapters to support the recruitment and training for the IHL Action Campaign, and your chapter staff can help you apply.
Interested chapters should submit the completed 2015-2016 grant application by Wednesday, July 15, 2015.
For more information on the program, please contact Yenisleidy Simon Mengana, Youth Education Program Officer, at Yenisleidy.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be part of a team that makes a difference and shares the message that there is humanity even in the midst of war.
Watch these videos to learn more about Raid Cross, a simulation activity to teach young people about IHL:
Check out these blog posts to meet some of the amazing young people who took part in the program last year.
Completed applications should be sent to IHLYouth@redcross.org by July 15, 2015.