Sunday, May 07, 2019 — Over the past 12 months, the world witnessed some of the most powerful natural disasters in recent history, resulting in the mobilization of record numbers of people to deliver support and provide vital assistance. On May 8, World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, the American Red Cross will join other Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies around the globe in celebrating the power of volunteers.
May 8 commemorates the birth of Henry Dunant, founder of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent (“Movement”). Motivated by what he witnessed following the Battle of Solferino in 1859, Dunant began advocating for humane treatment of the sick and wounded during wartime. By 1863, he had created the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Clara Barton – who performed humanitarian work on the battlefields of the U.S. Civil War – would bring Dunant's idea home and found the American Red Cross in May 1881.
The spirit of volunteerism is the essence of the Movement and the heart and hands of the American Red Cross with people contributing time, money and blood in order to help save lives, bring comfort to those in need and alleviate human suffering.
In the last year, American Red Cross volunteers have responded to an array of disasters—including home fires, tornadoes, wildfires and, of course, the unforgettable hurricanes. In addition, they helped thousands of service members stay connected with their families, trained millions in first aid, CPR and other lifesaving skills and supplied thousands of hospitals with blood and blood products.Overseas, workers from the American Red Cross helped vaccinate millions of children against measles, delivered relief to thousands of survivors of the South Asia earthquake and assisted communities recovering from the tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Every day, volunteers from the Red Cross worked to disseminate essential information on international humanitarian law and to reunite individuals through family linking programs.
Following Hurricane Katrina, the American Red Cross received generous support from the public as well as Red Cross and Red Crescent societies around the world. Individuals, organizations and even governments supported the unprecedented response to the hurricane season. More than 190 international disaster response experts from partner Red Cross and Red Crescent societies participated in the relief efforts, joining with the more than 230,000 American Red Cross workers – 95 percent of whom were volunteers – from all 50 states who responded.
Together with its Movement partners, the American Red Cross also is working to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Nigeria, Tanzania and Russia and is supporting the Movement's efforts to address the food crisis in Africa. Drawing on its success in Africa over the past five years, the Measles Initiative is expanding its vaccination campaigns into Asia, including Bangladesh and Indonesia. At the same time, the American Red Cross is taking a comprehensive approach to prevent malaria and other diseases through insecticide-treated bednet and vitamin A distributions.
Today, the Movement consists of more than 97 million members and volunteers, assisting more than 277 million people worldwide. Although each national society has unique qualities, all are united by common principles and the goal of improving the lives of vulnerable people.
Through the motivation and action of its volunteers, the American Red Cross and its Movement partners worldwide pay tribute to Dunant's legacy and remarkable vision to help those in need and to protect human dignity for all.
For more information about American Red Cross work domestically and abroad, visit www.redcross.org.