The weekend of Oct. 18-20 in Ithaca was a momentous one for the Central New York Region of the American Red Cross as it hosted a Board Retreat, a public forum on International Humanitarian Law, and its first ever Collegiate Leadership Institute for members of Red Cross Clubs from across the Region.
Here’s a look at the historic weekend:
More than 20 board and advisory council members from throughout the Central New York Region attended the second annual Board Retreat at the Trip Hotel in Ithaca. The board members received updates on Red Cross activities from Regional Chief Executive Officer Rosie Taravella, staff members and two special guests from the Red Cross’ national headquarters: Richard Reed, Senior Vice President, Disaster Cycle Services; and Barbara Talisman, Senior Officer of Chapter Board Fundraising.
Reed explained the Red Cross’ disaster cycle re-engineering initiative, which focuses on improving the prepare-respond-recover cycle that’s at the heart of the Red Cross mission of alleviating human suffering.
“It’s not the next thing, it is the thing,” Reed said as he encouraged the board members to get involved in preparedness programs. “Preparedness is our down payment on response and our investment in recovery.”
The board members also participated in strategic visioning breakout sessions, and heard from Talisman, who provided a board campaign update and analyzed national giving trends. Following the Retreat, the board members enjoyed dinner with about 50 Red Cross Club members who attended the Collegiate Leadership Institute, and several of the board members also stayed for the public forum that evening.
Humanity in the Midst of War: The Protection of Civilians in Syria
To help the public understand International Humanitarian Law, why it’s important and how it applies to the current conflict in Syria, the Central New York Region hosted a public forum called “Humanity in the Midst of War: The Protection of Civilians in Syria” at First Presbyterian Church in Ithaca.
International Humanitarian Law (IHL) seeks to protect life and human dignity during armed conflict, and to prevent or reduce the suffering and destruction caused by war. One of the Red Cross’ most important responsibilities, as mandated by the Geneva Conventions and Congressional Charter, is to educate the public about IHL.
At the forum, four expert panelists discussed IHL in the context of what’s happening in Syria and then answered questions from the audience, which included all of the Red Cross Club students who attended the CLI. The panelists included:
• Rafif Jouejati, director of FREE-Syria (Foundation to Restore Equality and Education in Syria) and spokesperson for Syrian Local Coordinating Committees.
• Mukesh Kapila, former Under Secretary General at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the world’s largest humanitarian and development network. Kapila also served the United Nations in different roles as Special Advisor to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.
• Christie Edwards, Director of the IHL program at the American Red Cross.
• John Hubbel Weiss, history professor at Cornell University whose courses and research have dealt with aspects of modern European history, international relations, humanitarianism and human rights.
Kapila and the other panelists said it’s important for people to educate themselves about IHL and how to promote it worldwide because in today’s world, the rules about how people should be treated in wartime are violated regularly.
“The people of Syria are not interested in humanitarian relief with water and food,” Kapila said. “They’re asking for much more – justice, accountability and the ability to shape their own destiny.”
Collegiate Leadership Institute
Throughout the weekend, about 50 students from Red Cross Clubs at 18 colleges throughout Central New York participated in the Collegiate Leadership Institute (CLI) to learn more about the Red Cross’ mission and share their ideas about programs they can implement in their own communities.
“It brings the idea that it’s happening in a lot of different places,” Binghamton University senior Serena Sharma said when asked why it was helpful to have students from throughout the Region. “You kind of develop a community within a community.”
The students received training in leadership development, International Humanitarian Law and Red Cross core services such as Service to Armed Forces and Disaster Services and Preparedness. All of the students participated in the Hoffman Challenge Course, an outdoor challenge course at Cornell University, where they developed their leadership and team-building skills.
“The idea was to convene and inspire Red Cross youth in the Central New York Region so they can expand their vision and reach of the Red Cross mission and learn how to implement projects to support our mission in ways meaningful to them,” said Jessica Lane, the Regional Youth Services Program Manager for the Red Cross who organized the CLI. “It is important for them to realize the impact the Red Cross has on a local and global level.”
Preview Image: As part of the Collegiate Leadership Institute, Red Cross Club members participated in the Hoffman Challenge Course at Cornell University.