This year, four teams of 58 high school students in the L.A. Region are participating in the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Action Campaign, which raises awareness about issues related to the laws of war. Three of our teams are focusing on gender and one team is focusing on refugees. Selected winners around the country will receive a trip to Washington, D.C. to celebrate their achievements.
by Melanie Nomiya, North High School Red Cross Club President/South Bay E-Board President/ IHL Action Campaign Team Leader
The American Red Cross has granted me several opportunities to challenge myself to become a leader in my community. During the past four years in high school as a youth volunteer, I’ve been able to witness the five lines of services in action, whether it be high school blood drives or disaster safety puppet shows
for children. While I am familiar with the Measles and Rubella Initiative the American Red Cross supports as part of International Services, I had only vaguely heard of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Participating in the International Humanitarian Law Action Campaign seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to learn more.
The IHL Action Campaign is a year-long program where students are selected to be part of school teams, and work on a campaign that spreads awareness about International Humanitarian Law. I was selected to be a team leader for my high school club’s team. In preparation for this program, all the team leaders attended a two-day training session at the Greater Long Beach Chapter to learn about International Humanitarian Law.
Our IHL Action Campaign Coordinator Hetal Shah led us through a simulation called Raid Cross to experience the different aspects of IHL. We got a taste of how armed combatants, prisoner of war camp detainees, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) humanitarian workers, and civilians are affected during times of armed conflict and how IHL limits the effects of war. Activities in the Raid Cross simulation included mock trials, visits to a prisoner of war camp violating IHL, case studies, and more.
We were fortunate to have International Services volunteer Mike Farrar join us to teach the Born on the Battlefield class to delve more deeply in International Humanitarian Law. In addition, Mahsa Maleki, a human rights attorney for LAFLA’s Torture Survivors Project, came in as a guest speaker to discuss the topic of refugees. Hetal then taught us about gender issues in IHL. To conclude the whole training, we finished off with a fun jeopardy-style review game.
The team leaders were in charge of facilitating a weekend-long team member training, covering the same topics and activities we participated in during our team leader training. With the help of Hetal and Mike, we were able to have a very successful training and bond with our team members. I can tell that our progress with this campaign is quickly moving forward, and I anticipate working with my team to start developing a new, innovative campaign to promote IHL. All the teams have been meeting weekly since January, so hopefully at least one of our teams here in the Greater Long Beach Chapter can make it to Washington D.C. in June! Wish us luck!