By Ellie Smith, American Red Cross
When Fatima Abdulrahman entered Brookfield High School as a freshman, an extracurricular activity she chose was membership in the Red Cross Club. She was looking for a way to contribute to the community, and since she also had an interest in the medical field, she thought the club presented a great opportunity for her involvement.
At the orientation meeting, new youth volunteers learned about the American Red Cross and its wide-ranging service to society. Part of that introduction included information about the club’s Youth Action Campaign, part of the Red Cross International Humanitarian Law (IHL) program.
High schoolers interested in becoming Campaign volunteers are first educated about the body of rules that governs armed conflict and seeks to limit its effects.
After training, they carry out various activities advocating Humanitarian Law program awareness within the community, and how it affects people around the world.
Fatima was drawn to the Youth Action Campaign because international events and studies appeal to her. As did, she says, “The idea of people from different regions and countries, from different backgrounds, coming together to solve a problem.”
On an annual basis, the National Red Cross Youth Action Campaign focuses on a different theme to promote knowledge of its goals. One of its promotional activities is the American Red Cross International Humanitarian Law Essay and Art Contest Competition, in partnership with the United States Committee for the Blue Shield. During the 2021/2022 high school academic year, the contest theme was “Preservation of Cultural Property.”
Fatima says, “Art is one of my hobbies, so I decided to submit an entry. Art is a form of expression and open to interpretation by any individual depending on how their experience has shaped who they are.”
She was in school when she received an email from the Youth Action Campaign IHL, National Headquarters informing her that she took first place in high school entries, describing her submission as “powerful and compelling.” Her winning submission depicts a building with two family members – their back to the audience – facing a painting frame with its contents ripped out. On the top of the frame is the text, “Who Are We?” Fatima explains, “When cultural property is destroyed, people, as generations, can start to lose who they are because each element of cultural property is significant to their identity. I wanted to expose viewers to how cultural property can be affected by armed conflict.”
“I’m so proud to see one of our very own volunteers not only submit her art – but win! Her piece truly does make me reflect and ask myself ‘Who am I’?” said Beth Healey, Sr. Director, Military and International Services, American Red Cross Connecticut and Rhode Island Region “Our Brookfield High School students have been crushing the Youth Action Campaign, bringing awareness to their peers about the necessity of protecting cultural property”
She was surprised – and happy – to learn that she won the contest and plans to continue serving as a Red Cross Club youth volunteer, and maybe join the American Red Cross when she graduates. She wants to become knowledgeable about International Humanitarian Law so as “not to repeat violations of the past and be guided to a brighter future.” Her winning entry will be published in the Red Cross digital magazine.
You can learn more about the Red Cross Club’s Youth Action Campaign for young people ages 13-24 at http://www.rulesofwar.org/youth-action-campaign.