Saturday, September 21, 2013

Working at Peace: How Red Cross Volunteers Bring Hope to the World

by Carmen Wright, volunteer contributor

Social Activist and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt once said in a national broadcast given on Armistice Day: 
“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.”  
Today, we celebrate the International Day of Peace and the Red Cross volunteers around the world who work tirelessly to bring peace to war-torn countries through their actions and compassion. 

The Middle East

Headlines about Syria have been filling newspapers for several months, but amidst the stories of destruction there are also ones of hope, particularly the success the International Committee of the Red Cross, with the help of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, has had in helping civilians when other foreign organizations have been forced to leave Damascus. The ICRC and SARC repair infrastructure, provide shelter for the displaced, and distribute clean drinking water and food to millions of people. 

Today we honor these volunteers not only because they work towards peace by providing aid regardless of how the conflict unfolds but also because they sacrifice so much in doing so. SARC lost twenty volunteers in the conflict, and those who cross the front lines face rocket fire, sniper fire, and roadside bombs. Nonetheless their focus remains on providing humanitarian aid and their main concern is not being able to reach the wounded who are in the most dangerous areas of Damascus. 


Working with local Red Cross organizations, the ICRC has also made significant contributions to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Sudan, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. They help those who suffer from internal violence by providing medical attention, reuniting families, providing clean water, and visiting detainees in prisons. Many of these organizations have been operating in these countries for many years. The Red Cross has been in Sudan since 1978 and has helped carry its people through struggles by doing something as simple as delivering messages between family members to providing aid to victims in Darfur. 

South America

Colombia has suffered one of the longest armed conflicts in the world, and ICRC has been there for the past 40 years to help people in rural areas where violence is most prevalent. With the help of the Colombian Red Cross, the ICRC provides medical aid, rebuilds infrastructure, offers projects to promote self-sufficiency, and renovates schools and sanitation centers. In an effort to maintain humanitarian laws, the ICRC also addresses breaches to laws with security forces and negotiates with armed groups so they can safely provide medical attention to victims. 

These are just a few examples of the commitment of volunteers. There are many more stories from Afghanistan, Myanmar, Mexico, the Balkans, and other countries around the globe. Regardless of the location, their commitment to humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and universality in the midst of violence inspire us to believe in peace so maybe we too can transform that faith into action. 

To learn more about the American Red Cross International Services, go to

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