The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is an impartial, neutral and independent organization whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence and to provide them with assistance. The ICRC also endeavors to prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles. The father of Red Cross, Sir Jean Henry Dunant conceived the idea of creating the International Committee of Red Cross in 1863 and which later got formally established by the Geneva Convention in 1864. The ICRC is at the origin of the Geneva Conventions and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. It directs and coordinates the international activities conducted by the Movement in armed conflicts and other situations of violence. Red Cross exists as one family of varied units as the ICRC (International Community of Red Cross), IFRC (International Federation of Red Cross) and in the form of numerous National Societies all over the world.
In its functioning and operations all over the world, Red Cross strictly upholds seven of its fundamental principles; which are: humanity, unity, neutrality, universality, impartiality, independence, voluntary service
With all the other nations of the world who adopted the Red Cross, the movement got its impetus in India by the Act of parliament in the year 1920. Since then, the movement has been observed by all the states and Union Territories of the nation at different levels.
Indian Red Cross Society, Jammu & Kashmir chapter was formed in the year 1947. It acts as an auxiliary to the state authorities. In providing the humanitarian service, it strives to provide the assistance to those affected by manmade or natural disasters without any discrimination. Upholding the seven fundamental principles of the Red Cross Movement, IRCS J&K iswidely operational on a diverse scale. It works under the State Level Managing Committee. It coordinates activities through the two regional branches- one in Kashmir and another in Jammu province under the respective Divisional Commissioners. There are District Red Cross Committees for each district functioning under the respective District Development Commissioners.
In J&K, the movement ensures the realization of activities such as: first aid trainings, emergency relief, health care activities, Jan-Aushadi Generic medicines, internship, dissemination, volunteer mobilization, junior red cross, youth red cross, livelihood program.
The J&K Red Cross Society has registered more than 1200 volunteers across the districts and has imparted them with trainings as well. Out of the registered volunteers force, around 250 young volunteers are active and are participating in the Red Cross activities whenever called upon. Their services are being utilized whenever and wherever the need arises. They are also rendering valuable services to the District Administration in times of disasters and other humanitarian crisis situations. The J&K Red Cross society is making all efforts to strengthen and expand further the voluntary force; by participation and active involvement of the volunteers, voluntary organizations, NGOs and educational institutions.
International Volunteer’s Day (IVD): Observed and celebrated all over the World on 5th December; it was designated by the United Nations in 1985 as an international observance day to celebrate the power and potential of volunteerism.
It is an opportunity for volunteers, and volunteer organisations, to raise awareness of, and gain understanding for the contribution they make to their communities. It is also viewed as a unique chance for volunteers and organisations to celebrate their efforts; to share their values; and to promote their work among their communities; non-governmental organizations (NG0s); United Nations agencies; government authorities and the private sector.
The act of volunteering is found in all cultures, languages, and religions. Each year, hundreds of millions of people volunteer their time and skills to help make the world a better place. When they volunteer, they help to improve the lives of others. And by doing so, they also gain a greater sense of belonging to their communities.
On 5th December, people around the world celebrate IVD with rallies, parades, volunteer fairs, group clean ups, blood donations, conferences, exhibitions, fundraising, workshops and volunteer recognition events.Volunteering provides opportunities for people, particularly those often excluded; to concretely impact their own lives and play a constructive role in their communities by volunteering their time and skills. Through volunteerism, communities around the world often experience strengthened solidarity and inclusion.
International Volunteer’s Day (IVD) is an opportunity for us all to promote volunteerism, encourage governments to support volunteer efforts and recognize volunteer contributions to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at local, national and international levels.
At Indian Red Cross Society, we are marking International Volunteer’s Day with the theme "Volunteer for an inclusive future", highlighting Sustainable Development Goal (Reduce inequality within and among countries) and the pursuit of equality – including the inclusion-through-volunteerism.
On International Volunteer’s Day, we stand in respect of more than a billion volunteers who build resilient communities around the world. As we recognize the collective efforts of volunteers globally, we reflect on the multitude of actions taken locally to help people, communities and neighborhoods become better prepared to respond to the unexpected, and better positioned for a more sustainable future.
At Red Cross, volunteers are seen providing assistance to helpless, building schools for the poor, delivering first aid to the victims of disaster, supplying relief materials, arranging safe drinking water, restoring family links, disseminating information on sanitation and hygiene and many other activities which help alleviate people’s suffering.
The volunteer factor celebrates and recognizes the exponential impact of volunteers – the cascading effect of individuals taking action. Volunteering can also give volunteers a lift. When we volunteer, our spirits are lifted when we have the opportunity to work with others. Our sense of purpose is lifted when we see how our efforts have helped someone else. Our confidence lifts when we gain skills and experience through volunteering, helping us get into a competitive school program or successfully find a job.
The principle of voluntary service is a parameter of Humanitarian motivation of Red Cross and Red Crescent staff whether they are paid or not. Red Cross is a voluntary relief movement; not prompted in any manner by desire for personal gain. The quintessence of voluntary service is selfless service to others, the most direct expression of humanity which is at the core of Red Cross movement’s principles. It is a matter of immense gratitude to all those volunteers, who have offered their help and services with which the movement has been able to undertake its tasks, as defined in the principle of humanity- to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found. Guided by the fundamental principles in all their work, Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers inspire trust among men and women they assist.
Voluntary service is going through a period of crisis, as observed by some of the people who are concerned about the difficulty in recruiting volunteers and ensuring that their motivation does not flag. To sustain their motivation, the societies and the governments must endeavor to entrust the volunteers with tasks in line with their abilities; in order to ensure from the start they understand their rights and duties. This, for example, could mean giving them satisfactory working conditions, providing accident insurance, incentives for commendable service to the people and more importantly, imparting necessary training and skills to them as properly trained volunteers would always contribute in enhancing the reputation of Red Cross movement.
Voluntary work is an expression, a universal solidarity that bonds the movement together. The human dimension of voluntary service inspires many individuals to help others without any desire for personal gain. It serves the noble cause of serving the humanity with sincerity and selflessness. Apart from the concept of forming relief societies for the purpose of taking care of the wounded in wartime as conceived by Sir Jean Henry Dunant, there are examples of selfless volunteer work done by the prophets and saints. In fact, the origin of the voluntary services can be traced in the life of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Let all of us take a pledge that we will uphold the principle of humanity and shall endeavor to promote fundamental human values and voluntarily render selfless service to the people without discrimination, respect human life and dignity with voluntary spirit among the people, especially youth and strive selflessly and tirelessly towards mitigating the sufferings and miseries of human beings without any discrimination.
Author is former Director General, Economics and Statistics J&K and honorary treasurer, J&K Red Cross Society