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A time to volunteer

If not for the marks of time — the slightly burnished photographic paper, the fading contrast, the stiffness of the posed 19th century images, the horn-rimmed glasses and the bell-bottoms — these photos could easily describe the spirit and motivation of volunteers today. Dating from the American Civil War to the present day, the images show volunteers in action over 15 decades. Many of these photographic gems were recently unearthed from IFRC and ICRC archives, and are now part of the new exhibit posted on the IFRC’s web site ( to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers.

These women, members of the Soldier’s Aid Society who served throughout the American Civil War, were the forerunners of the Red Cross Volunteers of today. Photo: ©American Red Cross

Youth members of the Danish Red Cross carry out rescue and first aid exercises in Frederiksberg, Denmark, 1936. Photo: ©IFRC


Volunteers sort clothing for flood victims at a school in Fréjus, France. The flood resulted from the rupture of the Malpasset Dam on 2 December 1959. Photo: ©IFRC

Red Cross hospital recreation worker Sharon E. Dunnell helps Navy men Michael J. Flanigan (right) and Alan Kadaroff pass the time pleasantly with a game of cards at the US Naval Hospital, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo: ©American Red Cross/Rudolph Vetter

A member of the Burma Junior Red Cross delivers first aid to an injured man during the Union Day celebrations in Pa-an, 1965. ©IFRC

A Red Cross volunteer gives medical attention to an elderly cyclone victim. The cyclone hit India on 19 November 1977, killing 4,204 people. Photo: ©IFRC

Youth members of the Hungarian Red Cross pay a visit to an elderly retired farmer in the village of Ostoros, Hungary, 1959. Photo: ©IFRC

Nicaraguan Red Cross volunteers pick through the rubble of a building destroyed by an earthquake. The 1972 disaster killed 5,000 people, left 250,000 homeless and destroyed 13 square kilometres of Managua’s city centre. Photo: ©IFRC

A woman hands a Red Cross worker her child from a train after floods in San Pedro, Argentina, 1983. Photo: ©IFRC


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