Young volunteers

Time to give up? Helping young refugees to volunteer

Refugee volunteer

© Najeeb Mirzada and British Red Cross

A new report reveals what it is like to volunteer as a young refugee or asylum seeker – and also what stops many from doing it in the first place.

Refugees and asylum seekers flee traumatic situations, and usually arrive confused and grieving for what they have left behind. They often speak little, or nothing, of their new country’s language. They may be alone or with limited family support. Their new country can seem alien, with different customs and culture.

As Student Volunteering Week shines a spotlight on young people and volunteering, new research shows that volunteering can help refugees and asylum seekers slot into their new society. More

Teen lifesaver supports campaign for young volunteers

Dionne with HRH Prince Charles, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and young volunteers.

Dionne (holding the ‘up’ sign) at the campaign launch with Nick Clegg, David Cameron, HRH Prince Charles, Ed Miliband and young volunteers.

Dionne Burns saved a man’s life as a Red Cross first aid volunteer when she was 17 years old. Here she explains why volunteering still gives her such a buzz – and why she is encouraging other young people to take part in a brand new campaign.

Being a Red Cross first aider is always interesting – you never know what you are going to be dealing with. When I joined as a young 16-year-old girl, I never expected that in a few years’ time I’d be chatting with Prince Charles in Buckingham Palace!


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.

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