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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.

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  1. We think it is so important for youth to learn about the history of the Red Cross in each country, along with the international sides. This allows us to bond with history and those who founded our humanitarian efforts worldwide. Thank you for continuing to emphasize history. It helps us with our K12 clubs because students need role models and are used to studying history.

    Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale – 2 battlefield nurses, Henry Dunant are so important to our movements. We are in awe and we hope to be able to contribute with some vison of our own to help our networks in the USA and around the globe.

    Thank you Sandy for this great article.

    ~ Ashley-Anne
    President ARC K12 Club Waunakee

  2. Thank you for this post, it is important to recognize and recruit all volunteers, including the youthful ones. Henry was an amazing man of compassion and a worthy role model.