ICRC: Making lives better for 150 years

National 2 minutes, 35 seconds


THIS May 8, World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, come sit and read about the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, otherwise known as the ICRC or just the Red Cross, and what this day is all about.

Perusing its history reveals that, first, it was founded in 1863, and secondly it’s not one standalone organisation. It's a conglomerate of organisations and societies united by a set of principles designed to facilitate their goal of providing humanitarian aid to all regardless of race, ethnicity, religious beliefs or political views. It is funded by voluntary contributions from governments, societies, supranational organisations, and various public and private sources.

So very much like our very own non-government organisations (NGOs) and charities, the ICRC depends on donations for a cause they support. Of course, the difference is that it works worldwide.

Reading through the stories of the ICRC's work, there are amazing achievements that they have done, and more. These people have gone into warzones to care for the wounded and ill civilians, and making sure that civilians are protected during times of war. They visit prison detainees to ensure that they are treated with dignity and humanity in accordance with international norms and standards.

When Typhoon Haiyan left destruction in its wake in the Philippines, the ICRC worked to help the victims recover and rebuild. In Myanmar, the ICRC has been hard at work rebuilding ethnic Rakhine and Muslim communities torn apart by communal violence in Myanmar.

Even despite risks, a sole person can be an unsung hero. A Cambodian Red Cross volunteer hand-delivers letters on a motorbicycle to reach rural, remote villages, travelling for hours just to keep separated families connected.

The ICRC sometimes even responds before an event with due warning given. In the United States, when 2010 was forecasted to be severe hurricane season the ICRC prepared and trained volunteers as well as preparing equipment and materials near vulnerable spots, spending nearly US$30 million in its efforts to reduce damage and casualties, and allow rebuilding to commence without delay.

This day, May 8th, is to celebrate the ICRC's work and principles in humanitarian aid without borders and prejudices, and we could certainly learn from them. Thousands of people have volunteered their time to make lives better for 150 years despite the potential risks and complications they could be facing as they go about their task of helping others less fortunate without discrimination.

While we cannot compare our charities and NGOs with it, given the amount of funding and support they receive from multiple sources, surely we can keep them in mind as an inspiration, as a role model for us to know that it is always possible to care not just about ourselves but for others, regardless of political beliefs, religious views, race, age or sex, if and when we can, and make the world a better place for people. One single day every year should be more than enough to remind us that out there, people are spending their lives helping other people. If they can do that, so can we.

The Brunei Times