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Paul Panzu

Volunteer and national supervisor of HIV/AIDS project
(photo already provided; with motorcycle)

As an old person who still has a young mind, I would like strengthen the role of youth within our volunteer corps,” says Paul Panzu, who started his Red Cross career supervising young people at the age of 16. Now 72, Panzu is still a volunteer who also serves as youth coordinator and national supervisor of the HIV/AIDS project in the department of health and social actions.

Today, some 30 per cent of the volunteer corps is considered as youth. But Panzu says that in order to be sustainable, the National Society must beef up its outreach activities to attract, train and retain young volunteers.

“There are too few young people in our National Society who are well trained,” he says, adding that it’s often difficult to retain volunteers once they are trained and have gained experience. “Other humanitarian organizations sometimes offer more advantages than whose provided for by the Movement or our National Society. Volunteers tend to be attracted by these offers.”

The way to retain volunteers is by motivating them with regular training and by ensuring their safety through consistent dialogue with civilian and military personnel aimed at enhancing respect for the work of Red Cross volunteers.

Panzu says the work of volunteers, and humanitarian organizations in general, is making a difference. But there is room for improvement, he says. “We would like humanitarians to involve the communities at all the stages of the activities, from planning to implementation,” he says. “The actions that are oriented towards communities’ participation have more impact and are more sustainable.”

 



 

 

 

 

 

 



Photo: ©Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

 

 

Thérèse Mputu Nsa

Youth supervisor

“I want the youth to be prepared today so that we can have a better world tomorrow,” says Theresa Mputu Nsa, who at age 37 coaches young people on topics ranging from hygiene and sanitation, the environment, community health and humanitarian principles. “I want them to be able to take on their future responsibilities. Unfortunately, we witness many situations where young people are exposed to drugs, crime, HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancies.”

“As supervisors, we have a large role to play,” she says, adding that young people also teach her about the realities of their environment and that helps the National Society to have a broader impact. “These young people are messengers to other young people, so by reaching out to them, we extend the circle through our system of peer education.”

She is most proud of her National Society’s work helping child soldiers and children from the street. “Many children have now become useful to society; they finished their university studies and work,” she says. “I am also proud of the first-aid volunteers, especially the women, who have always been the first ones on the scene.”

But the National Society can improve, she says, by strengthening its capacity to respond to disasters, providing volunteers with adequate equipment and training, and finding the resources to offer a desperately needed ambulance service.

Her toughest moment as a volunteer came when she was taken hostage by the former child soldiers she was supervising. “The children were complaining that they hadn’t received any financial support to enable them to resume normal life, so they offloaded their frustration onto me, taking me hostage for more than 24 hours. As I was on good terms with them, they didn’t do anything wrong to me. I used my powers of persuasion until the authorities of the Red Cross came to release me.”


Honorine Kilamoko Tshibangu

Volunteer and president of the municipal Red Cross of Kinshasa

When Honorine Kilamoko Tshibangu joined the Red Cross as a volunteer aid worker in 1987, she knew she had done something that would change her life.

“As a woman, I was particularly noticed by the community who thought that only men could be rescuers,” says Tshibangu, who at age 64 now serves as president for the Red Cross of Kinshasa but still works as a rescuer. “Some women victims were also more confident when they saw they were being rescued by a woman.”
 
Since then, women have made considerable progress within the National Society. But she says the Red Cross of the DRC still needs much support: It desperately needs to rehabilitate old medical equipment and strengthen the capacity of volunteer nurses through training and sharing of experiences with other National Societies.

The investment will pay off, she says. After all, many positive things have come from humanitarian action in the DRC and that change is all about investing and believing in people. “Humanitarian organizations have contributed to significant behavioural change in relation to health practices and hygiene, she says. “But there is still much to do. Awareness raising should be carried out permanently, and not only after a disaster has happened. Too often, [humanitarian organizations] wait for a disaster to start acting.”


Photo: ©Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

 


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