National Society timeline

150 years of humanitarian action

 

Afghan Red Crescent Society
9 April 1934

 

The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society
1936 as part of the British Red Cross. Independent since 1 April 1949.    

 

Sierra Leone Red Cross Society
1937 as part of the British Red Cross. Independent since 16 August 1962.

 

Honduran Red Cross
24 September 1937

 

Kazakh Red Crescent
1938 as part of Soviet Alliance of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Independent since 26 March 1992.


Mongolian Red Cross Society

16 June 1939


Irish Red Cross Society

6 July 1939


Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society

1939 as part of the Australian Red Cross. Independent since 7 April 1976.


The Bahamas Red Cross Society
1939 as part of the British Red Cross. Independent since 23 June 1975.


The Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society

12 July 1939 as part of the British Red Cross. Independent since 5 May 1963.


Suriname Red Cross

20 June 1940 as part of the Netherlands Red Cross. Independent since 1975.


Antigua and Barbuda Red Cross Society

1941 as part of the British Red Cross. Independent since 22 July 1983.


The Uganda Red Cross Society

1941 as part of the British Red Cross. Independent since 30 July 1964.


Mauritius Red Cross Society

1941 as part of the British Red Cross. Independent since 18 December 1973.


Nigerian Red Cross Society

1942 as part of the British Red Cross. Independent since 29 September 1960.


Saint Kitts and Nevis Red Cross Society

22 February 1942 as part of the British Red Cross. Independent since 24 July 1985.


Syrian Arab Red Crescent

30 May 1942 (United Arab Republic from September 1959 to September 1961; Syrian Arab Red Crescent from 18 February 1962).


Indonesian Red Cross Society

17 September 1945 as the Netherlands Red Cross Indonesia Section; transferred authority to the Indonesian Red Cross Society on 16 January 1950.


The Red Cross of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

17 March 1945 as part of the Yugoslav Red Cross. Independent since 21 May 1992.


Liechtenstein Red Cross

30 April 1945 


Lebanese Red Cross

9 July 1945


Red Cross Society of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

18 October 1946


Vietnam Red Cross Society

23 November 1946


Philippine Red Cross

13 January 1947


Pakistan Red Crescent Society

20 December 1947 (the Pakistan Red Cross Society from 1947 to 1973).


Jordan National Red Crescent Society

27 December 1947


Botswana Red Cross Society
1948 as part of the British Red Cross.
Independent since 17 January 1968.


Brunei Darussalam Red Crescent Society

1948 as part of the British Red Cross. Independent since
1 August 1983.


Malaysian Red Crescent Society

1948 as part of the British Red Cross (the Malaysian Red Cross Society from 1948 to 1975). Independent since 22 November 1957.


The Guyana Red Cross Society

1948 as part of the British Red Cross. Independent since 29 December 1967.

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Principles behind bars

In ten of 14 prisons in Ireland, a small cadre of special-status Irish Red Cross volunteers* uses the Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to change the lives of troubled men, transform prison culture, reduce violence and improve the physical and psychological health of inmates. Since the Community Health and First Aid programme was put in place, the percentage of fights involving an illicit, handmade blade has gone down from 97 per cent to 10 per cent in one year. The result has been fewer injuries and reduced prison health-care costs. But the real beauty of the programme is that the volunteers don’t come from outside the prison, they are the inmates themselves. Sporting black T-shirts with the seven Fundamental Principles listed on the back, the prisoners run a host of projects — from hygiene promotion to HIV counselling to violence prevention — which prison health officials tried but could never achieve. These photos and words tell the story of those volunteers and the lives that have been changed.

*The Irish Red Cross agrees to have prisoners become special status Irish Red Cross Volunteer Inmates. Should an inmate wish to continue volunteering with the Irish Red Cross upon their release, they must apply in the normal way as any member of the public and comply with all vetting requirements. Photo: ©Jarkko Mikkonen/IFRC

 

“I didn’t appreciate life,” says Eddie, an inmate at Wheatfield Prison speaking of the days before he was sentenced nearly nine years ago. “I was hanging out on street corners taking drugs, robbing cars, doing everything I shouldn’t be doing. I went on getting into more and more trouble until one day I ended up in a prison cell facing a life sentence.”

“There were two things that changed my life,” he says. “One of them was the [prison] psychologist and the other was joining the Irish Red Cross.” The psychologist helped Eddie deal with his emotions, while the Irish Red Cross gave him a sense of purpose and value. Prisoners who volunteer complete an intensive course in community based health and first aid (CBHFA), covering basic first aid, disease prevention, health promotion and community mobilization.
Photo: ©Jarkko Mikkonen/IFRC

The seven Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement are central to the programme’s effectiveness. “Right from day one, the volunteers learn about the Fundamental Principles,” says the programme’s creator, Graham Betts-Symonds, a former IFRC staffer who is now CBHFA programme manager for the Irish Prison Service.

“The prisoners are aware of the Fundamental Principles — and not just from reading out of a book. They can tell you what it means in terms of prison life. Neutrality to them means not taking sides with one gang against another. Not to hold a grudge. It is really important. It changes the whole dynamic of prison life.”
Photo: ©Ombretta Baggio/IFRC

“The most important and challenging project that the volunteers got involved in was the weapons amnesty,” says Irish Red Cross volunteer John.1 At Wheatfield, there had been a major problem with inmates cutting each other using handmade knives. “There was a cutting happening nearly every two weeks. One fellow nearly died.”

John and other volunteers arranged meetings with inmates and prison authorities to figure out what to do. Eventually, they agreed on a weapons amnesty in which inmates could hand in weapons anonymously. “But we asked, ‘How are we going to get that started?” I said, ‘Let’s use the seven Fundamental Principles. A different one on each day as a countdown — seven down to zero.’”

“We started off with humanity,” says John, adding that by day five and six, the inmates understood the principles behind the programme and that in a few days the amnesty would expire. Today, the prison is virtually free of fights involving handmade blades. “And that’s something for the Irish Red Cross to be proud of because that never happened in the jail before. They are saving the time of emergency medical staff and saving people from going to the hospital. It’s a massive savings in terms of the budget.”
Photo: ©Ombretta Baggio/IFRC

The programme started in 2009, when Betts-Symonds began looking for a way to improve access to health care within Wheatfield Prison in a comprehensive way. “The prison health care was very reactive,” he says, adding that hygiene was poor and prisoners were apathetic about their health. “Prisoners went into the infirmary when they were sick. Nobody was looking at how to live a better and healthier life.”

So Betts-Symonds decided to apply lessons he had learned during humanitarian missions, during which he helped local communities create systems for managing and improving their own health. In the prison setting, that meant creating community health committees, made up of prison health staff, teaching staff and volunteers. “The local community in a prison is the prisoners themselves,” he says. “So what we needed was something that created action and empowerment within that community.”
Photo: ©Ombretta Baggio/IFRC

“My father died from AIDS when I was 10, my mother when I was 15,” says Ryan, another Irish Red Cross volunteer in Wheatfield Prison. “After my mother died, I turned to alcohol and drugs.

“When I came into prison, my life was upside down,” recalls Ryan, adding that he was also afraid he had contracted HIV.

Another Red Cross volunteer inside Wheatfield helped Ryan get an HIV test. “It came back negative and it was a huge weight off my shoulders. It was a second chance.”

He decided to take up John’s offer to become a Red Cross volunteer. “He got me started with first aid and I loved it. I couldn’t believe that I could deal with these things. I never believed in myself. That is how it all started and I haven’t looked back.”

He says it’s especially satisfying to help other inmates overcome the kind of addictions he once faced. “I feel like I am giving the other lads some hope,” he says. “I was dependent on drugs and alcohol when I came in, I know how it feels. This was the help I really needed.

“I’d like to continue with the Red Cross on the outside if possible. I don’t want to go back to the old Ryan, the old lifestyle — that will never happen.”
Photo: ©Jarkko Mikkonen/IFRC

The seven Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross
Red Crescent Movement as adapted for the Irish
prison environment:

Humanity
We show kindness, understanding and respect to everyone we talk to.

Impartiality
We don’t discriminate with a wide range of nationality, culture and different crimes, we treat everyone the same.

Neutrality
We don’t take sides in any issues or arguments.

Independence
Independent from Irish Prison Service but follows their rules.

Volunteer service
We don’t look for any gain. We do it because we get great satisfaction.

Unity
Only one Red Cross, all work as a team.

Universality
All Red Cross in Irish prisons are equal, share responsibilities and hoping to set up in all prisons.


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