As I wrap up the final days of my internship here at the American Red Cross, it is impossible not to reflect on how much I have learned during the past nine months. I’ll admit that I was not very familiar with International Humanitarian Law (IHL) when I started here in January. As a Global Communication student, I knew that IHL and the Geneva Conventions existed from my International Affairs courses, but my understanding of IHL was murky at best. IHL is a difficult concept to grasp, especially when mainstream media inundates us with portrayals of torture as normal procedure and civilian casualties as an acceptable product of war. I came to the IHL team with a general interest in IHL, but with a much stronger interest in youth education and education as a tool for social change.
I definitely got to explore my passion for youth education on the IHL team. As a Youth Education intern, I supported the IHL Action Campaign and Raid Cross programs, which included everything from editing activity guides and posting blog posts, to creating catering orders and staffing events. I’ve had the chance to call in to Humanitarian Education Initiative webinars to exchange ideas with Red Crossers from across the globe, and I even got to facilitate a Raid Cross post to a group of youth volunteers from the Korean Red Cross once! My favorite experiences as a Youth Education intern, however, have been attending the 2015 Youth Leadership Summit and the 2015 East Coast Training of Trainers. It was really rewarding to attend these events after participating in the planning process, but I most enjoyed meeting all of the incredible Red Cross volunteers that were present. I mean it when I say that my experience at the American Red Cross has shown me just how incredibly passionate and driven Red Cross volunteers are — Red Crossers are truly inspiring. IHL can be a heavy subject, especially on days when the news is filled with violations; however, the IHL team at National Headquarters, the regional staff members who facilitate the Youth Programs at the Chapter level, and especially the youth volunteers who participate in the IHL Action Campaign, are all proof that there are people working to make the world a better place.
When I first started my internship, I was told that Red Crossers never really leave the organization: “Once a Red Crosser, always a Red Crosser.” Now that I’m preparing to leave, I completely understand that phrase. My passion for humanitarian education has only grown since I’ve been here, and I’ve also developed a deeper understanding of IHL. I’ll continue to advocate for humanitarian education and adherence to IHL, and I hope to find another way to volunteer with the Red Cross someday!
– Lindsey Spanner, Youth Education Intern