By: Tvisha Jindal
Henry Dunant. Switzerland. 1863. These words and date mark the birth of the Red Cross. Before the Red Cross became the organization it is today, it sprung from very humble beginnings. During 1859, war ravaged the Northern Italian city of Solferino. Dunant witnessed the bloody aftermath and published a book, “Un Souvenir de Solférino” [“A Memory of Solferino”], about his time organizing the local people to help aid the wounded. This book and his humanitarian work eventually catapulted him into the spotlight.
On February 7, 1863, Dupont was appointed by the Geneva Society of Public Welfare to a task force examining the possibility of training volunteers to help in aiding wounded soldiers on the battlefield. Dunant traveled all over Europe, spending his money and time to convince countries to sign an international law treaty of human rights and to allow his organization to intervene during wartime. This resulted in the first-ever Geneva Convention and neutrality granted to sanitary aid personnel. The creation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was the culmination of Dunant’s efforts.
The American Red Cross followed nearly 20 years later in 1881. Civil War nurse Clara Barton drove the creation of the American Red Cross after visiting Europe after the war. She was greatly inspired by the ICRC and heavily advocated for the United States to ratify the Geneva Convention, which it did in 1882 due to her efforts. The original founding principle of Barton’s vision was to provide assistance to Americans suffering from disasters or serving on the battlefield.
Throughout the last century, the Red Cross has mobilized time and time again to aid the American public. In 1898, Barton sailed to Havana, Cuba to help victims of the Spanish-American War, the organization’s first official war-related service to the military. Then in 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt personally called upon the Red Cross to help victims of the San Francisco earthquake.
Through its history, the Red Cross has aided survivors of the RMS Titanic, the military during World War I and World War II, helped in prisoner-of-war exchanges during the Korean War and stationed volunteers overseas during Operation Desert Storm. Recently, the Red Cross has responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, launched a measles initiative to eradicate the disease in sub-Saharan Africa through vaccinations and launched an online interface!
In 1941, the Red Cross started one of its most famous initiatives — the National Blood Donor Service. Originally intended to supply the military, the program quickly grew and expanded to civilians in 1948.
Today, the Red Cross’s mission statement is to alleviate pain and suffering
in the face of disasters through the power of volunteers and generous donors. That mission is something that the North Texas Region of the Red Cross has worked extremely hard to uphold since its inception in 1911, following the Trinity River flooding. The North Texas Region serves more than nine million people across 121 counties in Texas and Arkansas.
Even among one of the most geographically and weather-diverse locations in the country, the six chapters of the North Texas region continue to support the community through disasters, blood collection and other events with a smile.