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Henry Dunant’s Fountain of Youth

Contribution by Guest Blogger: Sandy Tesch Wilkins

Did you know that Henry Dunant founded the Red Cross Red Crescent network when he was only 31? Pretty impressive! Today, on World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, we celebrate his birthday and the important work of the organization around the world.

The Red Cross is serious about building up youth and young adults as volunteers both on the ground and in the boardroom. Youth leadership structures like the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent’s (IFRC) Youth Commission and the American Red Cross National Youth Council give young people a voice at the highest levels of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement and the opportunity to tailor their volunteer work to their own passions and the needs of their communities. As of this September, I will have volunteered for the Red Cross for 14 years – literally half my life – and I can confidently say I wouldn’t be where I am today without the Red Cross.

As a member of the IFRC Youth Commission, I’d like to introduce you to young people who are following in Dunant’s footsteps, my fellow Youth Commission members. I am incredibly fortunate to serve with this group of passionate, dedicated young volunteers.

Our commission recently had its inaugural meeting in Geneva and though it was a first for many of us, we bonded within a few hours, united by a shared love of public service and the Red Cross and Red Crescent network. Over two days we put together an ambitious work plan that will create even more opportunities for young people to develop their leadership skills and participate in governance and decision-making at all levels.

One of the highlights of our Youth Commission’s work plan for 2011-2013 is the focus on supporting regional youth networks – geographically-based groups of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies that share best practices and pooled resources to organize resource-intensive but essential projects like youth leadership trainings. By encouraging youth from different National Societies to communicate, work together and support one another, often through free channels like Skype, the Youth Commission will amplify the great work of young Red Cross Red Crescent supporters around the world.