American Red Cross International Services works globally to help those who suffer — without discrimination, whether during conflict, in response to natural or man-made disasters, or due to conditions of chronic poverty. But despite “international” being in the name, it’s a program that helps families right here in the Northwest Region. Mariana Bellinger, Northwest Region Program Specialist for International Services, says the region-wide program focuses on three areas, and she’s looking for volunteers for each one.
The first area of focus is Restoring Family Links. Volunteers train to be caseworkers to provide services to people who have been separated from their family members in another country due to armed conflict, international migration, disasters, or other humanitarian crises. Caseworkers speak with clients to gather details to begin searching for their missing relatives, deliver and collect Red Cross Messages containing vital family news, or conduct searches to locate missing family members (either in the Northwest Region or in another country). Caseworkers with the Red Cross can also reach out to community organizations and groups to inform them of Restoring Family Links services and provide appropriate referrals to other services a client may need.
Restoring Family Links is Mariana’s favorite part of the job. “It’s so rewarding to finally get that connection made,” she said. “These people are going through major life changes, and they are overwhelmed with daily tasks, so to be able to help them connect to family and just have peace of mind is pretty great.”
When caseworkers aren’t working on a case, they can do outreach in the community, such as trying to recruit more volunteers, taking flyers around to the local areas, and promoting the idea that Red Cross International Services is here to help. Mariana says outreach is also a great way to build cases because the caseworker may meet people who need help finding family members.
The second area International Services focuses on is International Humanitarian Law (IHL) — the body of law that governs armed conflict. Volunteers train to be instructors so they can teach classes about IHL to community members and other Red Crossers.
International Services offers three levels of training within the IHL program. The training the volunteer takes will determine the courses they eventually teach. There’s “Even War Has Rules” – a one-hour presentation at the basic level. At the intermediate level, there’s a four-hour presentation called “Born on the Battlefield” and at the expert level, there’s an eight-hour course called “Humanity in War.”
All training can be done either online or in person, and timing is self-directed. Volunteers are taught how to lead classes in IHL and are paired with current instructors before teaching on their own. Volunteer instructors aren’t required to have set availability and can lead sessions as their schedules permit. Mariana says they have several instructors at the basic level, but she’d like to have more at the intermediate level.
The third area of focus is the International Humanitarian Law Youth Action Campaign, which empowers students aged 13-24 to learn about international humanitarian law. Young people volunteer to educate the public on IHL by exploring topics with their communities through peer-to-peer education campaigns. Youth teams participate in an IHL training, where they learn how to build their own educational campaigns and conduct in-person and social media activities to promote awareness around IHL.
Each year, there’s a different focus to the Youth Campaigns. For example, the 2022-2023 academic-year teams will focus on how armed conflict can damage the environment and how the law protects it. There’s a project at the end of the school year, and each team can decide what the project will be. For example, one team from last year submitted articles to a couple of magazines. Students can also enter to win a trip to Washington, D.C. to see the national American Red Cross headquarters.
The goal of the Youth Action Campaign, Mariana says, is to help the youth build team skills, be a team player, and learn something they might not get in the classroom. And if they continue volunteering after the campaign is over, even better.
Mariana says she loves her job with International Services. "I think I found my passion. It aligns with some of my personal morals and the mission I want to focus on in my career,” she said. “I've really enjoyed being here so far. Since my degree is in International Relations, it is a perfect fit.”
The Northwest Region Red Cross International Services program is looking for volunteers!
For more information on getting involved, contact Mariana Bellinger at email@example.com. You can find more information about International Services by clicking here.