Reflection – Interview with Red Crossers
Alleviating human suffering, protecting life and health, and upholding human dignity especially during armed conflicts and other emergencies, the 150 years of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has been a story of hope. Made up of National Societies comprising of volunteers, and global staff of ICRC and IFRC, the Movement continues to sail through emerging challenges and adversities.
“What else could be more meaningful for a human life than putting it to use to help fellow beings”
To celebrate the human spirit that has prevailed through a century and a half, we spoke to a few Red Crossers who have worked in different countries across the globe to get a glimpse of how this humanitarian journey dotted with challenges can turn into a source of unmatched emotional satisfaction for them.
Recounting his experience of having worked in the disputed northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, Bal Bhujel says, “between bullets and bombs all around, working with communities on ground brings its own challenges and even contentment.” Talking about one such experience from Kirkuk, he says, “In an economic security project, we were working with women who had been widowed by conflict. They had remarried a few times and each time lost their husbands to conflict resulting in complete social exclusion. The project thus aimed at providing socio economic support to help them lead a dignified life. Overwhelmed with the intervention and its impact, some women wanted to get photographed with me to put the picture on the walls of their home as for them, the Red Cross project had changed the definition of their existence. With such a closed cultural set up for women, this was a very out-of-the-world request and I was very gratified that day for taking part in a project that brought significant change in someone’s life.”
Diganta Bujarbaruah had a similar experience in 2010 when a young boy, whom he had trained in first aid, in Assam, had dived and saved eight passengers of a bus that had fallen into a river in a village near Guwahati. Talking about the incident, he says, “because the boy had been trained by me in an ICRC training programme, he was able to single-handedly save so many lives. This fills me with pride. This is just one of the many such little moments in my career as a Red Crosser that has left me moved and perhaps made me proud of what I do.”
Happiness comes with different names. For Sunil Paul, who has been a driver for ICRC’s delegation in New Delhi and has travelled to different field locations in India and abroad, his joy comes from his work. Recalling his experience during the Bhuj earthquake in Gujarat in 2001, he says,” I remember a specific incident where the ICRC team managed to rescue a child trapped under the debris. The child was provided medical support by our team and then we also worked hard to reunite him with his family. Assisting the process was an unforgettable experience. In fact what else could be more meaningful for a human life than putting it to use to help fellow beings?”
Behind the success of the Movement that has grown to a size where it touches populations in almost every country of the world, are also unseen and unheard Red Crossers who have dedicated their entire lives to keep the wheels of this Movement rolling smoothly. Mewa Lal, an ICRC messenger responsible for transferring letters and important files to different stakeholders, is a case in point. Talking about his experience, he says, “I know my job is a not a very big one but the fact that I have given 25 years to this organisation, facilitating important information transfers makes me happy. Even with small contributions I am proud to be a part of the bigger show.”
The nature of operations of this 150-year-old Movement is such that it needs the volunteers and employers to be compassionate in dealing with situations. Marek Resich tells us, through his experiences, how the work of a Red Crosser goes beyond a typical earmarked mechanical job. Remembering an incident from Nepal, Marek says, “It was 2005 when two district level Nepali government officials had been taken hostage by insurgents. The ICRC was playing the role of a neutral intermediary to release the hostage and the anxiety of the uncertainty lasted for few weeks wherein we stayed in touch with the family, provided them information and emotional comfort. Finally, with the help of the ICRC, when the officials were released, we could make it possible for the family to get reunited at the airport. That moment when they got together was an unforgettable scene of pure joy. We did not do anything out of the world and just facilitated the process but the satisfaction of the end result was such that only few other professions can match.”
And as the Movement continues its celebration of its 150th anniversary, Red Crossers across the planet continue to march on, weaving such tales of hope, love and compassion. And it is through them that the dream and vision of Henry Dunant continues to live on.
ICRC Celebrates World Red Cross day!
The ICRC celebrated World Red Cross day on 8th May across its offices in India, i.e. New Delhi, Jammu, Srinagar and Raipur, with the Red Cross Movement partners – IRCS and the IFRC.
In New Delhi, a 16-over cricket match was organised between the ICRC and IFRC at the Talkatora Cricket Stadium and in true Movement spirit, colleagues played the friendly match braving the heat. At the end of the match, the ICRC Head of Regional Delegation, Mary Werntz and representatives of the Federation congratulated the teams.
The ICRC also participated in the 8th May event of the J&K Red Cross State Branch where the ICRC’s Head of Jammu and Kashmir office, Jean-Francois Sonnay, emphasised on the collective strength of the Red Cross Movement. Speaking on the occasion, the Chief Guest of the event, Post Master General of J&K, urged the youth to come forward and join the noble cause of serving humanity. Students from various schools and colleges presented papers on the theme – “150 years of Humanitarian Action”. A rally of Red Cross volunteers was also flagged off by the Chief Guest after the event.
This was followed by another high profile event organised by the Srinagar District Red Cross Committee. The Governor of the State, senior civil and police officials, State Branch staff, students and the ICRC attended the function where the Governor released the Special Cover and My Stamp brought out by the Postal Department exclusively on the Red Cross. The funds from the sale of the cover and the stamp will be given to the Red Cross Movement.
In Raipur, Chhattisgarh, a two-day event marked the occasion, which included a dissemination session for students, volunteers and journalists on ICRC and IRCS activities. Mr. Shekhar Dutt, Governor of Chhattisgarh, presided over the event and unveiled the IRCS.