March is Red Cross month – a time to remind everyone of the work the Red Cross does locally and across the world. When you think of the Red Cross, do you think of war –torn countries or responses after natural disasters? Or do you think of the Red Cross as your local provider of first aid, house-fire response or water-safety programs? The Red Cross is active locally and internationally – aid is not just seen in the face of emergencies and disasters, but in helping neighbors every day.
“Would it not be possible, in time of peace and quiet, to form relief societies for the purpose of having care given to the wounded in wartime by zealous, devoted, and thoroughly qualified volunteers?”
Those were the thoughts of Henry Dunant, Swiss founder of the Red Cross after witnessing battlefields in Italy in 1859. Following Henry Dunant’s vision, the Red Cross works to alleviate suffering caused by fighting. But they also help people in times of peace to strengthen their capacities to live safer and healthier lives and prepare for and recover from disasters.
The Red Cross introduced a common symbol (the red cross and eventually the red crescent and red crystal) to protect medical personnel on the battlefield. The global Red Cross and Red Crescent mission and scope has evolved into the world’s largest humanitarian network – the only non-governmental organizations with specific responsibilities outlined in the Geneva Conventions.
Guided by the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity, and universality, the network is made up of three components that work together to alleviate suffering:
- More than 185 Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies around the world, including the American Red Cross and the Canadian Red Cross.
- The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (International Federation)
- The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
In Canadian Red Cross covers the following areas:
International conflict, disaster management in Canada and around the world, migrant and refugee services, restoring family links, First Aid, CPR, swimming and water safety, homecare services, and health equipment loan services.
The American Red Cross covers the following areas:
International services, disaster relief, support for military families, health and safety services, and lifesaving blood.
Through generous support of people across the world, the Red Cross is able to mobilize to help people in need. The Red Cross is not a government agency, but relies on donations of time and money to do its work. By donating time, money, blood or taking a course in CPR or other life-saving skills, volunteers make a difference to millions of lives each year.
Supporting your local Red Cross agency can provide life-changing and often lifesaving services down the street, across the country and around the world. If you want to get involved in the Red Cross, contact your local society and see how you can help.
2013 also marks the 150 year anniversary of the Red Cross. You can view a detailed slideshow with historical facts about the organization on the dedicated webpage.