The American Red Cross provides a wealth of indispensible resources and services to assist those affected by disaster, conflict, or oppression abroad, and through the Silicon Valley Chapter’s Youth International Committee, young people have also been empowered to help make a difference.
The Youth International Committee acts in support of the Red Cross International Services Department to help raise awareness among the youth on issues that affect countless people in countries all over the world. The group provides teens with the opportunity to become leaders and educators within their communities. Comprised of over 20 boys and girls from high schools around the Region, it is one of the largest committees in the Silicon Valley Chapter.
Every year, the Youth International Committee organizes a refugee simulation event, designed to provide participants with a sense of the chaos and confusion of being displaced, as well as to instruct them about the many challenges refugees must face in seeking a new home. Participants cycle through a number of stations, starting with a border crossing. Upon safe arrival in their new country, they must then undergo the painstaking process of claiming legal asylum. Participants are given government forms written in French, which they must fill out to the best of their ability, as to recreate the bewilderment involved. After the simulation, the committee holds a panel, where real-life refugees relate their experiences. Although the simulation only lasts a day, it represents a stark reality that can take years for some.
In addition to the refugee simulation event, the Youth International Committee holds courses in ESL and disaster preparedness. They are also in the process of organizing classes in International Humanitarian Law, with the help of the Red Cross International Humanitarian Law program, which provides free curricula and educational resources to the public. Most recently, they started a series of movie nights geared towards raising awareness of international issues. Their first film, The Devil Rides on Horseback (2007), is a documentary chronicling the horrific genocide that persists in the Darfur region of the Sudan.
On June 20, the Youth International Committee will participate in the Silicon Valley Chapter’s event for World Refugee Day, where they will help spread the word about the resources and support the Red Cross offers to those displaced or affected by international conflict or strife.
“We try to raise awareness of international occurrences people aren’t familiar with, that our media doesn’t cover,” said Adarsh Nellore, a junior in high school. He is the co-coordinator of the Youth International Committee, along with Joanna Hu.
Adarsh first learned about the Red Cross in the eighth grade. When he failed to organize a club through his middle school, he started his own group, running fundraisers to help support the relief efforts of major disasters like Hurricane Sandy and the Japanese tsunami. When Adarsh entered high school, he joined the Red Cross Youth International Committee. It is now his second year as co-coordinator of the group, which reaches out to the local community of refugees and immigrants with the care and support of the Red Cross.
“Ultimately, one day, we’ll be voting, making choices on the policies we want, and it’ll be important to be informed about the issues,” said Joanna Hu, who serves as co-coordinator of the committee with Adarsh. Joanna is currently a sophomore in high school. She first heard of the Youth International Committee through her school’s Red Cross club. She has been working with the committee for the past year. “We try to inform and educate people, so they’ll then factor those issues into their decision making, and maybe we together can make some kind of difference.”
In April, Adarsh and Joanna received the International Services Award at the Silicon Valley Chapter’s Volunteer Recognition Event for their exemplary initiative and tireless efforts leading the Youth International Committee.
“We were extremely honored,” said Joanna. “We have so many dedicated committee members.”
Adarsh continues to be thankful for the unique opportunities the Red Cross gives him. “I really appreciate how the Red Cross, more so than other organizations, provides a platform for youth volunteers to achieve change on a national level.”
Related story and information:
International Humanitarian Law program