About this event
8th May is the birthday of Henry Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross, born in Geneva in 1828, and recipient of the first Nobel Peace Prize. The day celebrates the Red Cross and the Red Crescent’s almost 200 years of service caring for those caught up in disasters and war zones. Today the movement boasts approximately 97 million volunteers.
Dunant founded the Red Cross after he came across the aftermath of the battle of Solferino in Italy during the Napoleonic Wars. He was shocked at the 40,000 wounded and dying soldiers that remained on the battlefield and personally organised the local populace to help build makeshift hospitals to care for them.
After this Dunant founded the Red Cross, an organisation intended to care for the victims of conflict, irrespective of the side they are on. Since its inception in 1863 the Red Cross and its islamic counterpart the Red Crescent have saved lives and ensured the transferal of war prisoners in practically every major conflict.
How to approach it
The Red Cross and Red Crescent is an inspiring example of compassion, collective action and hope over fear. There are lots of possible things you could get out of this day. Firstly, the story of Henry Dunant is a really useful example of feeling compassion, taking action and making a difference. Like many of today’s issues, dealing with the casualties of war may have seemed an impossibly large task. Yet, through the initiative of just one man, an international movement was galvanised, having an almost immeasurable impact over hundreds of years. Ask students what makes you feel as compassionate as Dunant? What do you wish you could take action on? What does the Red Cross movement tell us about working together?
Secondly, the Red Cross movement is a useful tool to talk about values. Help students to think through why the movement has so much international, cross-political support. Suggest that this is because the Red Cross and Red Crescent’s values are that of universal care and peace. This is something we can all agree on is a good thing. It points to the fundamental truth that almost everyone wants peace. Ask students, what other things can we all agree on? What are some things everyone wants? How can we build a world that realises these values?
International Committee of the Red Cross
Henry Dunant founded the Red Cross almost 200 years ago. Dunant did this because he thought wounded soldiers and those hurt by war should be helped, regardless of which side they were part of. From just one concerned man a movement of over 97 million volunteers was born. Everyone is capable of starting a movement like Dunant if they want to. What things in the world make you sad or compassionate? How do you think you could work together with others to solve them?