December 5 is has been designated by the United Nations since 1985 as the International Volunteer Day. It offers an opportunity for volunteer organizations and individual volunteers to showcase their contributions - at local, national and international levels – and to stress on the efforts towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The United Nations General Assembly invited Governments to observe annually an International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development (resolution 40/212 of 17 December 1985) and urged them to take measures to heighten awareness of the important contribution of volunteer service, so that societies and communities as well as individuals get motivated to offer their services as volunteers, for betterment of the society.
The Red Cross Movement relies on the power and zeal of its volunteers. From rescue and relief during any disasters to health challenges, these volunteers have always surpassed the movement’s expectation by the help they have provided. The Indian Red Cross Society works with and through its volunteers in a variety of service areas, depending on the needs of their communities.
Focusing on the immediate needs of the victims of disasters, the IRCS developed a unique module for training volunteers from the communities; the First Medical Responders (FMR) module. The First Medical Responders, belonging to the community itself are the first ones to reach affected populations with help. Ever since 2011, when this programme was piloted in Uttarakhand, the FMRs have been on the forefront of all IRCS help during ensuing disasters, like Uttarakhand landslides in June 2013, Cyclones Phailin, Helen & Leher in October 2013, Jammu & Kashmir Floods in September 2014 and the recent cyclone Hudhud in October 2014. The FMRs helped in the immediate rescue, evacuation, first aid, relief distribution, psycho social support and other services during and after the disasters.
On this day, the main focus of the Red Cross Movement is not only celebrate volunteerism in all its facets – but also pay special tribute to people’s participation in making a difference locally, nationally and globally. We celebrate the contribution of volunteers in engaging people from the grass-roots in decision-making processes, thereby socially including every single person on a path for stronger governance, social cohesion, peace and sustainable development.
We should make volunteerism a practise, so that more people are benefitted and an educated, self-reliant, healthy and developed society is achieved.
Dr S P Agarwal
Indian Red Cross Society