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Thinking global, acting local

Philip and Thomas have forged a strong friendship after they met volunteering at their local Red Cross shop.

Thomas, 21, began volunteering at the Red Cross shop 18 months ago. He was inspired by his best friend who was already volunteering there.

"I wanted to volunteer because I think it's important to give back to the community. My friend was volunteering at the store and I'd visited her and knew the shop and the other volunteers, so it made the decision to want to volunteer there easy."

Not long after, Philip, 19, began volunteering at the store too and he and Thomas became close friends.

As Red Cross shop volunteers, Philip and Thomas help with customer service, stocking shelves and sorting donations. The funds raised from shops go toward the everyday humanitarian work of Red Cross, ranging from local activities that support older people living alone to international work providing safe drinking water to communities.

Philip, the younger of the two, found his friendship with Thomas opened new doors. As well as his volunteer work, Thomas worked at a trendy tea shop and helped Philip get a paid job there. Coincidentally, Philip also ended up getting accepted into the same tertiary course as Thomas. They both study law and international studies at the University of Adelaide.

"Volunteering at the shop has introduced me to a lot of ideas and people that I wouldn't have met otherwise," Philip says.

"Volunteering at the shop has introduced me to a lot of ideas and people that I wouldn't have met otherwise," Philip says. "That's been really crucial in who I am now. It sounds a bit melodramatic, but the people at Red Cross have really changed me quite a bit, they've given me guidance and have shown me what's out there. It's great!"

Thomas agrees that volunteering at the store has broadened his networks. "The friendships I've made there have been of great benefit to me. I've had so much fun at the store and I've met different people that I wouldn't normally talk to."

Connecting to the global Movement

Thomas and Philip also appreciate being part of the international Red Cross Movement, particularly as they can relate their law and international studies to the work of Red Cross.

"I believe in what Red Cross does, like the impartiality when it goes into conflict zones," says Thomas.

"I have an interest in war crimes and I studied International Humanitarian Law. I looked at what the International Committee of the Red Cross has done and I believe they play a critical role internationally."

Philip has found his knowledge of Red Cross has helped him better understand his tertiary studies.

"Red Cross just seems to cover all of your bases, both internationally and domestically. You've got aid work overseas, but you also have domestic projects like working with families or addressing issues for migrants."

"This semester I've had really good subjects on politics and international law. I always seem to come back to Red Cross in both of them. It gives me a little bit more of a contextual understanding of the issues because I'm aware of what Red Cross does on the ground."

Thomas and Philip feel connected to the international work of the Movement and know that they can support it locally through their volunteer work at the store. In addition they've made new friendships and feel in touch with their community.

Photos: Australian Red Cross/Morne de Klerk