This Week in Restoring Family Links News 8/16/2014-8/22/2014

Do you follow @intlfamilylinks (Restoring Family Links’ account) on Twitter? See an interesting article but just don’t have the time to read it? “This Week in RFL News” is a weekly blog segment that highlights and summarizes some of the news items posted by RFL’s twitter.

World Humanitarian Day: This week, organizations and individuals around the world recognized World Humanitarian Day. This day is set aside to honor the work of humanitarians, especially those who have passed away while serving others. It is also a chance to highlight the variety of humanitarian work done globally, and the gaps that remain. With conflicts increasing both in number and severity, this year’s day of recognition placed emphasis on the growing needs of humanitarian organizations. However, with these needs has come opportunities for innovation within the aid sector. This includes unique partnerships between humanitarian organizations and private sector businesses as well as advancements in providing aid to refugees by learning from refugees themselves.

Displacement in Iraq: Quick point of clarification before I dive into the news from this week – many have classified the Yazidi communities displaced by fighting in Iraq as refugees; however, technically they are internally displaced persons (IDPs). The distinction is important in that IDPs are not protected under the UN refugee convention. However, international humanitarian law does provide protection for IDPs in times of conflict. Regardless of whether those displaced by conflict are labeled as refugees or IDPs, the international community has the responsibility to protect them.

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming. Last week, there was a great summary of the current work being done by various UN agencies to provide humanitarian aid to those affected by the Iraqi conflict. This week a map was released highlighting their response and the gaps that remain. Globally, many nations have increased their efforts to meet the needs of the Yazidi. Turkey announced that it will be opening a refugee camp specifically for Yazidi refugees seeking asylum within its borders. Australia has responded by reserving refugee resettlement spots specifically for refugees fleeing the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. In the US many Iraqi refugees anxiously await updates from family members and look for ways to help the displaced.

Unaccompanied Children: As the response to the unaccompanied minor migrant crisis continues, many communities in the US are now hosting the children as they await immigration hearings. One Maryland mayor has encouraged his community to welcome and treat the children as neighbors. In Miami, schools are welcoming the unaccompanied migrants and providing education. While in the San Francisco Bay Area, many families are looking to provide foster care for the children. Over the past couple months, the number of unaccompanied children crossing the US-Mexico border has decreased. This could be the result of a number of different things, including actions taken by the US and Central American governments, but also the intense summer heat. 

Confidence is Key

Story by Jai Punjwani, Greater New York Region, IHL Action Campaign Team Lead

A loud screeching sound filled me as I was about to score the winning goal for my soccer team. Startled, I opened my eyes and looked across at Dennis. He looked back at me. After a long minute of staring, he broke out into a smile that could only mean one thing: we finally reached Washington DC.

For months, my team members and I have been learning about child soldiers and their protection under International Humanitarian Law (IHL). To raise awareness for the issue in our school and community, we had run an action campaign, which was selected for national recognition. My team members and I were beyond excited to visit Washington DC and present our campaign to the American Red Cross staff at National Headquarters! After checking into our hotel and unpacking our bags, we immediately gathered for a very important group activity: a game of volleyball.

Later that day, after various ice breakers and a very delicious dinner, all of our group members met to prepare for our IHL Action Campaign presentation. On the run-through of our PowerPoint, Sammuel kept saying his lines incorrectly, Dennis kept reading off his paper verbatim, Sharon and Evelyn were constantly laughing, and I was about to go back and score that winning goal I was dreaming about earlier. Kanhong, our team leader, stared at us hopelessly. We were doomed.

The next morning at 7 am my eyes burst open. My alarm didn’t go off, so why did I wake up? I glanced at my window and saw a bright ray of sunlight enter my room. I quickly got dressed and went down for breakfast. No one said a word. We soon boarded the bus and sat back in our seats anxiously. When we arrived at the National Headquarters, we took group photos and proceeded inside. First up was our coffee break presentation, which we forgot to prepare for.

I nominated Evelyn to speak during the coffee break, since she is our best public speaker. She was reluctant to speak, but Kanhong reassured her that she would do just fine. Before our group’s turn, another group brought up three people to reflect on their campaign. Evelyn was quick to notice this, and asked me to come speak with her. Now I was the one who needed reassurance.

Jai Punjwani (right) reflects on his team's IHL Action Campaign during the coffee break with partner Evelyn Santos (left).

Jai Punjwani (right) reflects on his team's IHL Action Campaign during the coffee break with partner Evelyn Santos (left).

“And now the group from Greater New York,” the host announced. I took a few deep breaths, looked at Evelyn, who seemed calm, and went with her to the front of the room. We briefly introduced ourselves, and took turns talking about the three parts of our campaign: the bake sale, classroom presentations, and social media campaign. Surprisingly, we barely stuttered as words flew out of our mouths with ease.

I talked about my role as president, and how it helped me develop during the last two years of high school. I also talked about why my team members and I started this campaign. We wanted to teach students about a very important body of law that protects many innocent lives.

Unfortunately, there have been numerous violations of IHL around the world, especially with the usage of underage child soldiers. We encouraged students to appreciate their access to education and stand up for human rights. I ended the mini presentation with a little joke about having to hassle my school administrators, and everyone gave Evelyn and me a warm round of applause.

Two months later, I am sitting in a chair taking an online course on Women’s Health and Human Rights. The course relates to one of next year’s IHL Action Campaign topics: gender roles. Having gained invaluable leadership experience, I am excited to start another action campaign at my new institution, Adelphi University. Through a second campaign, I hope to inspire students to think deeply about humanitarian issues and ways to solve them.  

Red Cross Celebrates World Humanitarian Day

Story by Cincinnati-Dayton Region of the American Red Cross

How are you being a humanitarian this year?

World Humanitarian Day, designated by the United Nations in 2003, is recognized every year on August 19th to celebrate humanity and the spirit that inspires people to help others who are in need, even in difficult and dangerous situations, and often putting their own lives at risk.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent network that includes the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the American Red Cross and 186 other National Societies continues to provide humanitarian assistance for those in need around the globe as well as promote the well-being and safety for the volunteers committed to doing this work.

In Syria, thirty-seven Red Crescent volunteers have been killed while on duty since the beginning of the conflict. In the occupied Palestine territory, two volunteers from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society have been killed in the recent conflict and many more have been injured in the last months.

Many of these volunteers are young people – youth who are committed to saving lives by putting their own at risk every day. ICRC is also drawing attention to the fact that health-care personnel are often among the first to be attacked in war and other situations of violence (a complete report from ICRC regarding this issue can be found by clicking here).

As part of the Red Cross Movement, the American Red Cross Greater Cincinnati Dayton Region is responding to both local and international needs. Our local disaster volunteers respond to local emergencies and fires, assist with services to the armed forces, and provide many other program to meet our mission. In the International Services Department, we raise awareness and funds for Measles and Rubella Initiatives, educate the public about International Humanitarian Law, and work to reconnect families separated internationally by conflict, disaster, migration, and other humanitarian emergencies through the Restoring Family Links program.

International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is at the core of the global Red Cross network. It is critical for providing rules for how war is waged, including the protection of non-combatants. For more than twenty years, the American Red Cross has promoted IHL through its chapters. The Greater Cincinnati – Dayton Region has been selected for a third year to participate in the International Humanitarian Law Action Campaign 2015, along with eleven other chapters.

This year’s theme for World Humanitarian Day is “the world needs more ______”. Express what you think you can do this year to support the work of humanitarian workers near and far through social media with the hashtag #theworldneedsmore, and then work to change your words into action. Then learn how you can be a humanitarian with the American Red Cross and sign-up to volunteer.

For more information on the International Services Department at the Cincinnati-Dayton Region, please click here.