By Thomas J. Kunicki, American Red Cross volunteer
International Services is a unique line of service at the American Red Cross that encompasses two important and interrelated programs: Restoring Family Links and International Humanitarian Law.
Amy Diaz oversees the International Services program in the American Red Cross Southern California Region. Amy has been a member of the Red Cross for over four years, having started with Disaster Services in El Centro, California, as the volunteer manager of the Pillowcase Project, an initiative that helps prepare young people to face possible disasters and emergencies in their area. Shortly thereafter, she applied for an internship in Disaster Preparedness, and later joined Service to the Armed Forces, where she currently serves as a manager and also oversees the region’s International Services program, which includes the Restoring Family Links program as well as International Humanitarian Law program.
In partnership with both domestic and international Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, the Restoring Family Links program works to reconnect refugees, immigrants and other individuals who have been separated from their families and loved ones by conflicts or disasters. Amy is reaching out to new and existing Red Cross volunteers to become involved with International Services. "A lot of people don't know that the Red Cross provides this service,” says Amy. “We have the great opportunity of being a neutral organization, so that we're able to service most of the community without them having that fear or reluctance of going to an organization that will judge them."
Another important component of Red Cross International Services is International Humanitarian Law - a set of rules contained in the Geneva Conventions that seeks to limit the effects of armed conflict, to protect persons who are not or no longer participating in hostilities, and to restrict the means and methods of warfare. Congress has mandated the American Red Cross to assist in sharing this information with the public.
"We teach the public about international law applied to wars or conflicts,” says Amy. “We teach this information because it's important for the public to know how to analyze conflicts or actions taken by governments or the military, so they can see why these are either allowed or not allowed, and to become advocates for victims of actions that are not allowed."
As part of the world’s largest humanitarian network, the Red Cross partners with Red Cross and Red Crescent teams to provide aid and hope to migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in accordance with the seven fundamental principles of the organization. Amy is passionate about the growing need to promote humanitarian values and to improve basic living conditions of people in chronically deprived and marginalized areas. As she describes it, "This is a very different program, a different volunteer position that is offered within the Red Cross. It provides a great opportunity to work with such a valuable community of migrants and refugees, and to work directly with community partners, in order to assist migrants and refugees. This is truly a very rewarding position."
You likely have the heart and the necessary skills to contribute to this important work. If you are interested, ample instruction and mentorship will be provided, with an emphasis on working with diverse communities, utilizing effective communications tools, and connecting with valued community partners to deliver the Red Cross mission.
If you would like to learn more or offer your help, please contact Amy Diaz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer, please visit redcross.org/volunteer.