Category: Young volunteers

Takeover Day – What happens when young volunteers take charge of the Red Cross for 24 hours?



©Matthew Percival/British Red Cross

Rémi-Adelé Kaz, in the green top, was director of communications for a day – ©Matthew Percival/British Red Cross

This is a guest blog by Rémi-Adelé Kaz, who took part in Takeover Day – a national initiative that saw 12 young volunteers take charge of the British Red Cross for a day last week. The 16-year-old student volunteers in a Red Cross shop in Bournemouth once a week.

Although I was aware of the fantastic work that the British Red Cross does for people across the UK and the world, I never realised just how much the Red Cross would do for me as a young volunteer. More

Volunteer: go to cool events


Sam-ClewesSince becoming a first aid volunteer, 17-year-old Sam Clewes has hobnobbed with royalty at Buckingham Palace and rocked out at the Wireless Festival. Here’s his story:

Become a first aider with the British Red Cross, they said. You’ll get to see interesting things. They weren’t lying.

I live in rural West Midlands, so when the Red Cross asked if I’d like to spend a summer weekend at both the Queen’s Coronation Festival and the Wireless Festival, you can probably guess what my answer was.


Why volunteering makes you irresistible


Robin-kiss-blogA new study shows that altruistic behaviour – such as volunteering – can be like catnip to potential romantic partners.

Ladies and gentlemen: we have been misinformed.

Popular culture – whether music, films or books – constantly drums the line that all girls love a bad boy, while men can’t help drooling over vampy women.

Think of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, that sulky vampire chap from Twilight or the perma-undressed Rhianna.


Brave Erin wins Humanitarian Citizen Awards


A brave young woman who suffered horrific burns has won our Humanitarian Citizen Awards for her work educating people about the dangers of fire and raising money for charity.

Three years ago, Erin McNeill (22) was caught in a blaze at a friend’s house and suffered 40 per cent burns to her arms, legs and body. She spent ten weeks fighting for her life in intensive care unit – most of it in an induced coma – then endured a series of skin graft operations.

The reconstruction work is still ongoing – she expects to undergo five or six operations next year – but she still finds time to regularly help Central Scotland Fire and Rescue Service drive home its fire safety message.


Young volunteers shape the future of the Red Cross


Guest post by Heather Fitzke, British Red Cross youth delegate to IFRC General Assembly in Geneva, November 2011.

“It is often said that young people are the future of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, but I feel that is only part of the story. Young people are the Movement’s driving force here and now, and are the world’s best hope for real and lasting behavioural change at the community level and beyond.”
– Bekele Geleta, IFRC Secretary General.

Making the Right Impact
This quote may seem like a beacon of praise in a sea of downright gloomy reportage on young people. Young people are often presented as THE problem, or as passive victims of a sinking financial and social system from which there is no hope of recovery.

As a volunteer for the British Red Cross I know that there is another side to this story.

In the UK around 6,000 volunteers under 26 dedicate their time and talents to helping the most vulnerable in their communities. Our volunteers take action when they see someone in a crisis and, rather than accepting the status quo, they are being the change they want to see in the world.

The importance of volunteering was a dominant theme throughout the General Assembly in Geneva last month, which I was lucky enough to attend as the British Red Cross youth delegate. Volunteerism is the cornerstone of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and each National Society is only as strong as its volunteers.

The British Red Cross policy of enabling young people to volunteer across all our services makes us almost unique within the Federation. And it meant that I was interrogated by youth delegates from other National Societies who were fascinated by our distinctive structure!

I was more than happy to oblige and told them about all the different ways that young people contribute to the British Red Cross.

Opportunities for young people
Young people are involved in first aid, emergency response, health and social care, refugee services, peer education, preparing for disaster, retail and fundraising projects such as Dance: Make Your Move. Young people can develop essential skills through internships and work experience, and participate in decision making at all levels through initiatives such as SMT Takeover, Red11, and Red100.

As Ashanta Osborne, Chairperson of the Federation Youth Commission, stated in her closing speech: young volunteers “need an enabling environment to be involved in service planning and decision making” to maximise their contribution towards our joint humanitarian goals

This is why the Youth Commission has been mandated to support and improve the regional youth networks, so that we can share ideas and come up with solutions to the problems we encounter in the course of our volunteering. For example, the European Union Red Cross Youth Network (EURCYN), which is made up of over 30 countries, has written a position statement on migration which will be used to inform work with vulnerable young migrants in Europe.

Connecting for Change
The position statement could not have been written without the dedicated young volunteers who have developed innovative and effective programmes to respond to the risks and vulnerabilities that young migrants face. By using their creativity and connections through social media the network has come to a powerful consensus on what the issues are and how to address them at the EU level.

Social media goes further than facilitating partnerships. It is also used to “inform, inspire and educate” (Bekele Gelata General Assembly 2011) young people all over the world, and is a powerful tool for us to pass on our humanitarian message.

So, go on a Facebook friending spree or Twitterthon and share your ideas, experiences and views with other Red Cross volunteers, and together we can spread our message of humanity and peace across the world.

Find out more about volunteering for young people.

Red Cross volunteers learn about the ICRC in the UK


Guest post by Sarah Cotton, Public Affairs and Communications Co-ordinator, ICRC UK

I am currently on the train on the way back from a great trip with the Youth Advisory Panel to Edinburgh. For those of you who don’t know, the Youth Advisory Panel comprise 150 enthusiastic young British Red Cross volunteers who seek to make the British Red Cross better by ensuring their own views and perspectives are heard and appreciated by others within the organisation.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been lucky enough this year to extend its strategic partnership with the British Red Cross to encompass this impressive group of 15-25 year olds through Louise Halpin – ICRC Red11 Project Volunteer 2011. While the rest of us have been toiling away at our day-to-day jobs and tasks, Louise has been busy organising a fantastic event for her peers in bonny Scotland. The aim has been to better inform the British Red Cross Youth Advisory Panel about the work of the ICRC and whisk them away for a night to consider the future of humanitarianism via an ICRC organised TED event.

The adventure started yesterday afternoon, when 15 young advisors (plus me) met in the Beehive Inn in Edinburgh to watch TEDxRC2: Multiplying the Power of Humanity ( This TED event brought together 8 inspirational speakers in Geneva as a side event to the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, which takes place this week with all National Societies, the ICRC, IFRC and all state signatories to the Geneva Conventions. The event featured the founder of the Somali Red Crescent and Somali mid-wife: Edna Adan Ismail, Norwegian Foreign Minister: Jonas Gahr Store and Political Cartoonist Patrick Chappatte – to name just three.

Notwithstanding a couple of technical glitches, the group were suitably inspired by this fascinating show, which was watched via live web-link to the event in Geneva, to indulge in some post-TED analysis. In groups we discussed each talk in order to draw examples and lessons which could be learned by the British Red Cross to develop humanitarian inspiration for the future. For more about these ideas… watch this space!

This morning there was no rest for the good humanitarian, as the group assembled ready to tramp up the hill to Edinburgh Castle. Once there we were free to appreciate the heritage of a magnificent Scottish landmark, before heading to the ICRC Humanity in War photographic exhibition, stationed in the National War Museum deep within the Castle grounds. The Humanity in War exhibition is a collection of photographs from the ICRC’s archive that shows moments of humanity in that most-inhumane environment – war. The exhibition has been available to view at Edinburgh Castle since this February and will remain there for just another few months before it moves on to Northern Ireland and Canada in 2012. The British Red Cross were instrumental and inspirational in bringing the exhibition to Scotland and we are very grateful to them for making it happen.

One final highlight of our jaunt to Scotland then followed as the group assembled in a very posh conference hall in the Castle to link up with ICRC UK Head of Mission: Geoff Loane, via skype. Geoff gave the group an overview of the role of the ICRC across the world and then answered some pretty tough questions! These covered what the current ICRC response to the situation in Somalia consists of, how the ICRC and International Federation of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement work together with National Societies in the field, and whether a principle of independence sometimes obscures a principle of humanity.

Having grilled Geoff about the ICRC’s role and now being fully fledged ICRC supporters inside the belly of the BRC, the YAP were left free to wander round Edinburgh and contemplate a truly fantastic 24 hours.

Thank you once more to Louise Halpin for all your help arranging this event and if any one of you would like any more information about the ICRC, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Takeover day at the Red Cross


Lizzie Laessing (25) is a home from hospital volunteer in Bristol who was recruited to take part in the Red Cross’ Takeover Day Event. Takeover Day is an initiative masterminded by The Children’s Commissioner to give young people across the country the chance to work alongside adults and get involved in decision-making.

Friday 12th November saw 13 young Red Cross volunteers taking over the roles of the senior management team at the head office in London – a hijack of the SMT meeting that normally happens once a month. It was a great chance to really get to grips with how the organisation is run and provide some feedback and ideas directly to the top! I had been given the role of our CEO, Sir Nick Young – slightly daunting, but I was looking forward to the challenge.

Image: Jonathan Banks/BRC

We met the day before with someone from human resources who gave us some invaluable tips on problem solving, presentation skills and, particularly for me as CEO, how to run a successful meeting.

Despite having never met each other before, the board members worked well together constructing towers of spaghetti and figuring out the best strategy to survive an emergency crash landing in the Antarctic with not much prospect of survival! Thankfully we had some experts in the group who were able to identify some of the pitfalls of our equipment…Having survived the crash we could see how we each contributed to the decision making process, and how we could work together during the meeting the following day.

After a nice meal and a not-so-peaceful night’s sleep – our accommodation was right next to St. Paul’s Cathedral, did you know the bells ring every 15 minutes? – we put on our senior management hats and headed for a day of hard work in the board room.

We had some really interesting presentations: a sneak preview of some marketing ideas for Red Cross Appeal Week in May 2011- our annual major fundraising drive (it’s going to be a good one, so get involved!); insight into recovery operations in Haiti (the largest single country deployment in Red Cross history!) and how the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies works with other agencies in these kind of situations; the role of young people in delivering our strategy; the Red100 conference for young volunteers and ways of obtaining the views of young people more easily. Probably our most interesting discussion was about how to make the Red Cross truly inclusive to all ages.

I had no idea how tiring chairing a meeting can be. Ensuring that everybody’s opinion has been sought and understood clearly is much harder than I thought it would be. Not much time to lose concentration or let your mind wander with thoughts on the information you’ve been presented with!

So thank you, British Red Cross and Sir Nick – I hope we’ve left the place intact!

Young first aid hero celebrated


The British Red Cross Humanitarian Citizen Awards are all about recognising the good work undertaken by young people aged under 26 in the UK. This year more than 80 nominations were received for young people who have excelled across four categories – volunteering, community, fundraising and first aid.

Around 25 projects or individuals were invited to attend the awards ceremony held this year in October at the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, Central London.

Ross Pickthall took home the award for first aid. Here’s why:

In November 2009 severe floods swept across the North West of England with Cockermouth one of the areas worst hit. As a young British Red Cross emergency response volunteer, Ross helped some of the hundreds left temporarily homeless.

In May 2010, Ross was on board the Keswick school bus when it crashed killing three people. He helped the walking wounded and started to give first aid before the emergency services arrived. Just a month later and communities in Cumbria were again devastated when 12 people were killed by a gunman. Again Ross was part of the British Red Cross response to the shootings. In just a few months Ross showed that he had the willingness, confidence and ability to act to help those in need whoever or wherever they were.

Ross recounts the traumatic events that led him to have a profound appreciation for the contribution of young people to the work of Red Cross:

“I have been a British Red Cross volunteer for three years now and have taken part in many first aid duties and gained some valuable skills. Unfortunately, luck seemed to run out in Cumbria over the last 12 months leaving the Red Cross to help out with the floods in Cockermouth, the bus crash and the shootings. I think that this period of time has shown how vital first aid skills are for everyone, including young people. For me, being a volunteer meant giving my time for something I enjoy. I never expected any sort of recognition for anything that I had done.

This award shows that the Red Cross appreciates what their volunteers do, as does the rest of the world.  Winning the award made me feel proud of what I had done and I hope that the tragedies that have swept through Cumbria and the response to them demonstrate what an impact young people can have on their communities. By learning first aid you have the potential to save a friend or family member, and by volunteering you get the best feeling when someone says those magic two words to you ‘thank you’. It really makes it all worthwhile.”