In late June, dozens of high school and college students spent their Sunday learning about international humanitarian efforts during armed conflict at the Greater New York region headquarters in Manhattan. These students participated in Raid Cross, an American Red Cross training devoted to enhancing youth’s understanding of humanitarian implications of conflict.
Raid Cross was created by the French and Belgian Red Cross for young people to learn the guiding principles of International Humanitarian Law—a set of international guidelines that seek to limit the impact of war—and its application in armed conflict. This role-playing simulation activity allows its participants to immerse and experience armed conflict through the various lens of humanitarians, soldiers and civilians.
June’s Raid Cross was planned by the local Red Cross Youth Council, a group of eight Senior Leadership volunteers led by 17-year old Georgia Vassilopoulos. Born in Greece, Vassilopoulos also serves as a Youth Representative on the Red Cross in Greater NY Board of Directors.
“Although I have always been interested in international affairs, Raid Cross has highlighted the struggles of refugees and citizens which really hit close to home considering the tremendous number of refugees currently in Greece,” said Vassilopoulos.
At the beginning of the day, the students watched a presentation about Raid Cross and were given information about the situation – they are living in the fictional country of Haddar that has been attacked by its neighboring country, Deldar. The attack trigged an outbreak of violence, leading to a 13-month long armed conflict.
The students were then divided into groups of civilians, soldiers, prisoners and humanitarian workers to start the simulation. First, students take the role of prisoners at the fictional Gula Prison Camp. A representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) explains the rights granted under the Geneva Conventions and how the ICRC assists in assuring those rights are upheld. Then students must assess, treat and transport those suffering from injuries or the deceased as battlefield medics. Next, the humanitarian aid worker role has to navigate an obstacle course that serves to challenge critical thinking and problem-solving skills to deliver medical supplies to civilians. Tasked with military duties, students also had to determine targets for military force while complying with International Humanitarian Law and analyze the effects of their action. Lastly, a mock International Criminal Court trial was conducted where students presented a case of human rights violations to a judge.
“When war is mentioned, people tend to be very political in their discussions,” said Vassilopoulos looking back on the impact of such an event on her and her peers, “but Raid Cross really showcased that in the end there are no sides, no winners or losers, there are just ordinary people who have had their lives changed dramatically.”