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Red Cross is one of the largest and most influential humanitarian organizations worldwide. It works hard to meet the needs of the citizens domestically, and it functions globally through a widely spread network abroad. The programs implemented by the American Red Cross are focused on the preservation of public health and the prevention of threats. As a result, the organization admits that it is in constant need of resources such as blood donations, monetary help, and volunteers (“A Brief History of the American Red Cross”, par. 1). In the USA, the Red Cross has been working non-stop for 135 years already, and it can be accounted for hundreds of thousands of saved lives all over the world. This paper presents the history of the American Red Cross and its most memorable events.
The person who organized the American Red Cross was Clara Barton, a well-known American activist, a nurse, and a suffragist who bravely helped the wounded soldiers carrying out versatile duties throughout several wars (“Clara Barton”, par. 1). As the Civil War broke out in the United States, Barton was one of the activists who attempted to address the urgent need for the medical help and supplies for the soldiers which put the beginning of her never-ending mission as a humanitarian (“Clara Barton”, par. 2). Having traveled to Europe and taken part in the relief efforts through the course of the Franco-Prussian War, Barton campaigned to bring the Red Cross to her homeland. Her goal was successfully achieved as the American branch of the Red Cross was founded in 1881 and was in charge of it for the first twenty years of its existence (Greenspan, par. 4).
The first headquarters of the American Red Cross was located in the State of New York in a city called Dansville, and its first professional response as a humanitarian organization was to the massive forest fires in the Michigan that resulted in a lot of destruction (Rosenberg, par. 6). Obviously, the duties of the organization were not limited by the military conflicts only. For the first years after its establishment, the American branch of the Red Cross was involved in the active provision of help to the victims of natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, forest fires, tornados, and hurricanes. In 1889, the contribution of the Red Cross during the massive Johnstown flood was rather significant as the members of the organization built spacious shelters to provide temporary homes for the people displaced by the catastrophe (Rosenberg, par. 7).
The Geneva Convention
Since the very founding in the 1860s, the Red Cross all around the world is guided by the duty outlined in the Geneva Convention that says that during any military conflict the wounded individuals should be taken care of by either side of the confrontation regardless of their nationality or origin (Bowcutt). Even though the idea to establish an organization of this type is intended as a virtuous deed motivated by the attempt to save lives and help people, it faced some dissatisfaction and protest at the initial stages. Namely, one of the historical figures who is often associated with the Red Cross, Florence Nightingale was against the establishment of the Red Cross stating that the duties to take care of the people affected by wars lies on the governments of the participating sides and taking over these duties, the Red Cross allows the governments to disregard their obligations and take lightly the conflicts they initiate and the devastation they produce (Greenspan, par. 3).
In 1900, the American Red Cross was mandated by the charter to fulfill their duties as the provider of medical aid and supplies to the troops during armed conflicts and to the individuals and families affected by disasters (Rosenberg, par. 8). The same charter ruled to preserve the official emblem of the American Red Cross as their symbol.
Further in the 20th century, as the First and Second World Wars erupted, the organization expanded rapidly due to the global need for its services, growing number of volunteers, increased funding, and the widening range of rules and duties of the American Red Cross.
In addition to the medical help and supplies for the soldiers during military conflicts, the American Red Cross helped to find and identify many soldiers who were proclaimed as missing. It also arranged campaigns to bring back home the prisoners of wars during the First and Second World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and the Cuban conflict.
Some of the largest campaigns organized by the American Red Cross in the 21st century followed the events of the 9/11 in New York and Pennsylvania, and the strike of the hurricane Katrina that resulted in the biggest relief effort ever performed by the American Red Cross in response to a single disaster (“Significant Dates in Red Cross History”, par. 3). Besides, the organization provided help to the victims of the earthquake in Haiti delivering medical services and supplies and also raising funds for the people injured and displaced by the catastrophe.
To sum up, the organization such as the American Red Cross is extremely needed in the society that cannot go a day without wars. The response of the Red Cross to natural disasters and armed conflicts helped to save hundreds of thousands of lives that would otherwise be doomed. It is possible that the words of Florence Nightingale made sense and the Red Cross truly takes over the duties that originally belong to the world’s governments making it easier for them to start wars. However, in the time of need when many innocent people are harmed, the real activists do not waste time pointing fingers but join their efforts while the victims still can be saved.
A Brief History of the American Red Cross. 2016. Web.
Bowcutt, Kayla. “American Red Cross History.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 2014. Web.
Clara Barton. 2016. Web.
Greenspan, Jesse. 7 Red Cross Facts. 2013. Web.
Rosenberg, Jennifer. American Red Cross. 2014. Web.
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Significant Dates in Red Cross History. 2016. Web.