Before continuing my Law studies in France to become a lawyer, I really wanted to take a break in order to do community service abroad. Volunteering in another country was the most appropriate way to fulfill two personal objectives: being useful to the community and open my mind to a new culture. Since I am a French Red Cross volunteer, I decided to contact the American Red Cross to see if they had an opportunity that fit my skills. I was so happy when Pamela Baze offered me the opportunity to help her and her associate, Sidrah Raza, to work on the Raid Cross program. I started in my role as the Raid Cross Volunteer Coordinator in September 2014. Raid Cross is a role-playing simulation activity that teaches the basic rules of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) to make adolescents aware of the realities of armed conflict and humanitarian action. Each Raid Cross event day is attended by high school students and the all event day is facilitated by local university students.
Even though I am a law student, I had never studied IHL at university. Being part of Raid Cross was such a wonderful opportunity for me to learn about IHL. Indeed, in order to be efficient in the organization of the program, I read papers about IHL, and I also took part in conferences and trainings offered by the Red Cross. Thanks to these events, I learned so much in only three months. I can now say that I have mastered the basics of IHL. This is going to be very useful for my professional career.
Raid Cross was created to teach young people about the basics of IHL, to make them aware and concerned about the reality of armed conflict and engage them to talk about it. However, Raid Cross is not only about IHL. One of the key components of Raid Cross is community building. That is to say that the facilitators who are implementing the program are highly encouraged to engage with the high school participants creating a relationship of trust and respect with them and becoming mentors that help guide the youth participants regarding their future.
These elements made me feel so enthusiastic about the program. The main responsibility of my role as a Volunteer Coordinator was to create a training program for the facilitators about facilitation and mentoring and why they are important. I had to present that training to the facilitators. It was a great pleasure to meet them and the training days allowed me to have an overview of the result of my job. Even though in France I had experience teaching French as a French Red Cross volunteer, this was the first time I had to design a whole training intended to teach people how to teach and why. In order to achieve this goal I read documents about teaching and facilitation, to learn how to put words to concepts and abstract ideas. Furthermore, I had to think deeply about what teaching, facilitation and mentoring are and to adapt my training to the American style.
In my opinion, the French way of teaching is very different from the American one. In France, even though we do more and more to foster students’ engagement and participation, we do not encourage students to be as involved and committed as Americans do. Americans pay a lot of attention to team spirit, group involvement, and interaction. Even though these ideas may seem a bit abstract, Americans manage to make them concrete through activities such as icebreakers and team builders. These activities are very efficient. They engage people, they allow them to get to know each other better and create team spirit. Discovering this way of thinking and teaching was a huge benefit for me. It taught me a new way of managing people, and it increased my communication skills. It is going to be so valuable for the future.
Finally, I can say that Raid Cross also achieved its goal on me. Indeed, all the tasks I did to help the program challenged my vision of war and its consequences. War is arguably inevitable but not everything is acceptable during wartime. There are specific rules created to limit the effects of war and to mitigate human suffering. These rules are part of International Humanitarian Law. IHL has to be respected and if it is not, sanctions will be pronounced and it will undermine relationships between nations. It is necessary for everybody, and especially for the military, to know these rules and the consequences of their breach. Unfortunately, many people are not aware of their existence. This is a very big challenge for the present and the future, and I realized how important the role played by the Red Cross is in spreading knowledge about IHL to citizens. My work with the American Red Cross was a small piece but I am proud to say that I helped this organization achieving its goals.