The Red Cross
One of the greatest humanitarian organizations in history was founded on October 29, 1863 by Henri Dunant when he was horrified by the aftermath of the Battle of Solferino, fought in Northern Italy in 1859. He was travelling through the area and was shocked and horrified by the thousands of wounded soldiers left on the battlefield. As a result, he helped organize people from nearby villages to bring aid, water, and food to the wounded. Their nationalities did not matter to Dunant.
A few years later he wrote about what he had seen and suggested for armies to train volunteers to help the injured from both sides during a war. In addition, he wanted the volunteers to have a guarantee of protection. He wrote to important leaders throughout Europe and convinced them of his plan.
In 1863, an association in Geneva considered Dunant's idea and delegates from several countries attended a conference to discuss the plan and ultimately approved it. It was the official beginning of the Red Cross, and the humanitarian organization that would help many people throughout the world.
The symbol of the Red Cross is a red cross on a white background, but in Muslim countries, the organization is called the Red Crescent with a different symbol. It was an international relief agency, but national agencies in other countries became affiliates of the group.
In the United States, Clara Barton and a few other people she had known founded the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C. on May 21, 1881. She had first heard of the International Red Cross when she had visited Europe after the Civil War. When she came back to the states, she campaigned for the organization and then led the American Red Cross for the next 23 years.
They organization conducted domestic and overseas disaster relief efforts and helped the U.S. military during the Spanish-American War during Barton's tenure. She also campaigned for inclusion of peacetime relief work as part of the global Red Cross effort, though it was met with some resistance in Europe. The charter of the Red Cross includes giving relief to and serving as a medium of communication between members of the U.S. armed forces and their families, as well as providing national and international disaster relief.
The American Red Cross introduced its first aid, water safety, and public health nursing programs prior to World War I. When the war did begin, the organization grew rapidly and membership grew from 17,000 to over 20 million adults and 11 million Junior Red Cross members. The public also contributed millions of dollars for their efforts. The Red Cross did many things including helping staff hospitals and ambulance companies and recruited 20,000 RNs to serve the military.
The Red Cross continued with their aid to soldiers, civilian war victims, disaster relief efforts, blood drives, and much more during World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, and the Gulf Wars.
In summary, the Red Cross concentrates its assistance in five critical areas: People affected by disasters in the U.S., support for military members and families, blood collection and distribution, health and safety education, and international relief and development.
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