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China: students explore a day in the lives of those affected by armed conflict

17-09-2010 Feature

An interactive Exploring Humanitarian Law (EHL) day, the first of its kind in China, was integrated into a Red Cross Society of China youth summer camp in Nanjing. The camp brought together 96 young university students from seven provinces of China as well as Hong Kong and Macau, from 22 to 28 August 2010.

©ICRC/C. Lee    
Around this simple tent adorned with facts and photos, students learned about the particular situation of people displaced by armed conflict and living in a camp. Together, they assessed and planned which items to include in a distribution of assistance to meet the needs of the population.    
  ©L. Tao for the ICRC    
Students jumped, ran, crawled and wriggled their way through a couple of obstacle courses while attempting to achieve the objective of safely delivering humanitarian assistance to beneficiaries. The courses featured imagined hazards such as landmines and snipers, to provide some examples of the challenges faced by ICRC staff in the field.    
  ©L. Tao for the ICRC    
Pointing a toy machine gun and an attitude, this young man plays the role of a soldier taking the students as prisoners of war. The students would later be visited in their place of detention by a young woman acting as a delegate of the ICRC.    
  ©ICRC/C. Lee    
While students look on in the mock courtroom, role-playing soldiers accused of abusing their obligations under international humanitarian law were put on trial.    
  ©L. Tao for the ICRC    
Happy campers at the end of the day aimed at introducing the students to international humanitarian law through an interactive approach.
  "It is a great experience and it is a creative activity…I feel it is a wonderful way to learn," said Shanghai native Ding Xingyue, 19. "With this international situation nowadays, I think it's necessary to promote this law among youth circles."    
Frowning in concentration, the three students lifted the victim onto a stretcher. Amidst encouraging cheers, they frantically prepared to transport the injured for medical care.

But on that rainy August day, there was no emergency. The " victim " was a mannequin and the destination was a makeshift tent marked by a sheet of white paper labelled " hospital " . This basic simulation of transporting the wounded was one of many activities that took place on a day designated to introduce international humanitarian law.

Despite their age, many of the participants had long been displaying the humanitarian spirit as active volunteers in their local communities. Take, for example, Chongqing native Jennifer Wang, 20, who juggles her studies with volunteer work for the Red Cross branch in Jiangsu province, which includes befriending and assisting elderly people living alone and supporting the blood donation program. Working with others, she also carried out behind-the-scenes preparation for the Exploring Humanitarian Law (EHL) day at camp.

" It's a very good thing to help others. People can be very vulnerable, " said Jennifer, an aspiring teacher. " We should and can give our help. "

  ©ICRC/C. Lee    
Under the dome and by the bleachers of the university gymnasium that hosted the day's activities, students from Macau enact transporting wounded people from the field to hospital.    
  ©L. Tao for the ICRC    
Before heading out for the activities in the "field", the students started the day in familiar territory—the classroom—for introductory lectures and group discussions about various issues related to humanitarian law.    
©L. Tao for the ICRC    
Imagining that they were young people separated from their families because of the outbreak of war, the students wrote to their parents on Red Cross messages. The messages are among the tools used by the ICRC and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to help restore family links that have been broken because of conflict or natural disasters.
  "It just put us in their shoes," said Evelyn Chu, a 16-year-old student from Hong Kong. "After this exchange today, I got to know more about the humanitarian spirit—so many people working towards one goal."