Earlier this year, after having their passports confiscated, launching missile attacks in enemy territory and being judged by a war tribunal—all in one afternoon—teens from five New York City schools started to view war and conflict in a completely different way. And one group of students from Bayside High School will also be traveling to Washington, DC as a result.
The teens were participating in a simulation about war and conflict as part of the Greater New York Red Cross International Humanitarian Law, or IHL program. IHL is a series of guidelines that seek to protect civilians and regulate the methods of warfare. The promotion of human dignity during times of armed conflict—including protections for civilians, wounded and sick combatants, and prisoners of war—is at the cornerstone of IHL and at the heart of the Red Cross.
Local teens from New York City’s Townsend Harris High School, Horace Mann High School, Brooklyn Technical High School, St. Joseph’s College and Bayside High School participated in the simulation, which consisted of facilitated hands-on, interactive sessions in which the teens played the roles of captor and captive, leader and civilian. After completing these activities, each school group created a semester-long Action Campaign initiative to raise awareness of IHL among their peers.
This year’s IHL Action Campaigns focused on child soldiers and international justice. Students from NYC joined their counterparts from across the country in creating projects that showcase how those around the world can maintain human dignity in times of conflict—a tall task for the average teen. The five groups from across the country who developed the best Action Campaigns were invited to Washington, DC to compete June 5 - 8 at the National IHL Youth Leadership Summit. The Bayside High School team (Sharon Braich, Evelyn Santos, Dennis Ahn, Sammuel Kim and Jai Punjwani) was one of the groups selected.
Floral Park resident Jai Punjwani, a senior at Bayside High School, is the team’s leader.
“With our campaign we learned that if enough efforts are made, then a real impact can be made,” Punjwani said. “Over the course of this project, my team members and I made presentations to over 300 students, and have used social media as well to raise awareness about child soldiers. After our campaign, many students and teachers have been talking about this issue and have been interested in learning more.”
“We are so proud that our Bayside High School Red Cross Club will be representing our region in DC,” said Josh Lockwood, Greater NY Red Cross CEO. “The passion for IHL demonstrated by all our Red Cross Clubs is really inspiring.”
To learn more about the Red Cross youth programs, or how you can get involved, contact Amanda Crabbe, Greater NY regional manager, Youth Services, at Amanda.Crabbe@redcross.org, or visit www.redcross.org/rulesofwar.
To view a selection of these Action Campaign videos, click here.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org/gny or visit us on Twitter at @RedCrossNY.