A Visit to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

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When Red Cross Arcadia Chapter Disaster Action Team member Jeff Warhol began planning a trip to Europe this spring, he knew of one stop that would be a must-see for him: the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva, Switzerland.

The museum, which re-opened last year after a nearly two-year renovation, is dedicated to preserving the heritage of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and to spreading the ideals of solidarity more broadly.

“I was very impressed,” Warhol said. “If you’re not really connected with the Red Cross, you may not get the same level of emotion, but as I was going through the exhibits, it really tugged at my heartstrings and made me think that we really have something we can offer people throughout the world.”

Warhol, 71, has been a member of the Red Cross Arcadia Disaster Action team since 2011, and is also an authorized Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle driver. Warhol worked as a physical therapist for 32 years, including 25 years as the Administrator of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department at Kaiser Hospital in Fontana before retiring in 2001.

“Being a physical therapist, I never take any of my health or other activities for granted,” Warhol said, “so that’s why I retired at a young age and have been globetrotting and doing community service since then.”

Warhol was impressed by the new architecture of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum, which was designed by an international trio of architects, including Gringo Cardia of Brazil, Diébédo Francis Kéré of Burkina Faso, and Shigeru Ban of Japan.

“When I first looked at it, it seemed like a castle on a hill,” Warhol said, “and when I went through the doors there were these smiling ladies wearing uniforms. I showed them my Red Cross badge, just because I’m proud of that, and a young lady smiled and said, ‘Oh, you get to have a discount.’ And of course that makes a retired guy like me happy, too.”

The museum’s permanent exhibition, “The Humanitarian Adventure,” comprises three separate areas, each of which focuses on wider humanitarian efforts to address a specific challenge in the contemporary world: “Defending Human Dignity,” “Restoring Family Links,” and “Reducing Natural Risks.”

Warhol was moved by the “Chamber of Witnesses,” an introductory exhibit in which 12 people tell their stories via “scenographic” devices that are like holograms. The holographic “witnesses” suggest that human relations are at the heart of all humanitarian action.

“I was very touched,” Warhol said. “If you move a little bit to the left or right, they are still looking at you. It’s eerie, and at the same time, very thought provoking.

In another area of the museum, visitors enter the “Restoring Family Links” exhibit by passing through chains hanging from the ceiling of a corridor. The cold metal is meant to evoke the devastating loss that can occur within families during conflict situations. The chain links also suggested to Warhol that humans are social beings with a vital need to connect to loved ones.

“You walk through this corridor, and you feel these chains brush against your body and it almost gives you a chill when you think about the symbolism,” Warhol said. “We are supposed to be brothers and sisters to each other. We’re not supposed to be breaking the links. If we link together we’ll have strength.”

Warhol and his wife, Judith, who have been married for 46 years, decided to make the Europe trip this spring along with three other travelling companions partially because of Warhol’s love of the mountains.

“I’m a lover of nature and I’m a mountaineer – those are some of my avocations,” he said. “Of course, they have some wonderful terrain up there: the Alps with the Matterhorn and the Eiger, and all those fun things.”

The Warhols and their traveling group began their trip in the Netherlands in late April, then enjoyed a week-long cruise on the Rhine River before traveling to Switzerland, where they visited Basel, Geneva, Zermatt, and Zurich.

“We’re pretty blessed to be able to have the time and resources to be able to travel,” Warhol said. “I guess you’d call it a bucket-list thing.”

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum was a decided highlight for Warhol.

“The more I saw of the museum, well, you can’t help but puff your chest out – it gives me a sense of pride,” Warhol said. “I’m very proud to be a member of the Red Cross, and I’m so happy that we have so many people with that desire to spread love.”

–By Wendy Witherspoon

Picture Credit: http://www.redcrossmuseum.ch/en/press/permanent-exhibition

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