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World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day 2005: Protecting Human Dignity through the Power of Humanity

Friday May 6, 2005

The enormity of the disaster that struck Asia on Dec 26 last year required the largest mobilisation of infrastructure and personnel from the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in its 142 year history. At the heart of this response were an estimated 22,000 Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers who helped to provide aid and assistance to an astounding 800,000 people affected by the emergency.

As Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in 181 countries celebrate World Red Cross Day on May 8, the message that volunteerism demonstrates the true power of humanity has never been clearer.

However, it's also important that the day should not pass without recognising volunteers at a local level, according to Australian Red Cross Chief Executive Mr. Robert Tickner.

'The response of volunteers following the tsunamis was nothing short of extraordinary. Around 22,000 volunteers and personnel - many of whom had lost their own homes and loved ones - made incredible sacrifices to help protect the dignity of vulnerable men, women and children', said Mr. Tickner.

'But we need only to look around us to see that volunteerism - a Fundamental Principle of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement - is very much a part of our everyday life in Australia, and Australian Red Cross volunteers contribute a great deal to our communities', he said.

Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers around Australia and across the globe assist vulnerable people in a wide variety of ways: Social services to the elderly or handicapped; visiting services to the lonely; first aid; home visits to HIV/AIDS affected people; food assistance; hygiene education; child care activities; visits to prisoners; relief assistance in disaster situations; collection of bodies after a catastrophe...these activities are just a few examples of the work carried out by Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers.

In Australia, more than 27,000 volunteers are the driving force behind some 60 domestic services which help to protect the human dignity of thousands of Australians.

What's it all about?

World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day on May 8 is an annual global celebration of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement - a unique humanitarian force -and the birthday of its founder, Henry Dunant (1828-1910).

Dunant, a Swiss banker, witnessed the horrifying aftermath of the Battle of Solferino - a fierce and bloody conflict in Northern Italy between 300,000 soldiers from Imperial Austria and the Franco-Sardinian Alliance -in June 1859. Convinced that the power of humanity could be engaged to alleviate suffering and distress on a global scale, Dunant founded the International Committee of the Red Cross at a meeting of 36 delegates from 14 European states in October 1863.

On this day each year, the 181 members of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies organise activities within local communities to highlight the role of the Movement in their respective countries. The theme of World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day for 2005 is 'Protecting Human Dignity'

This year's World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day will highlight the work of more than 95 million Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers who work to protect human dignity in their own communities. These volunteers are the foundation of the Movement and the backbone of all Red Cross and Red Crescent activities.