24 Sep

Where are all the young volunteers?


Did you know that only 7.7% of the members of the Finnish Red Cross are youth? Did you know that the mean age of our members is 57.5 years? We’re hardly considered as a youth organization and it affects us in a bad way. Our goal has been set to double the amount of youth members by the end of 2017. So how can we do it?

Two years ago I participated to a FRC study trip to Macedonia and Kosovo. There the local Red Cross branches successfully recruited almost all of their volunteers from schools. Also many Asian and African countries have mainly youth volunteers.

In Norway, Sweden and Denmark they have a separate Red Cross Youth organization. That seems to attract more young volunteers. However, that contradicts the Red Cross and Crescent movement’s basic principle of unity. The rules say there should be only one national society in each country, but these Nordic countries have organized it differently. It seems to work.

Could having a separate youth organization be a solution to our problem of not having enough youth members and volunteers? It has its pros but I wouldn’t go that far.

“I have learned that good leadership is about knowing the people you are a leader for.”

I dream that one day there won’t be separate activities for example for youth or immigrants because they have all been integrated to the organization and society so well. Mixing different ages and backgrounds can be a strength. However, peer-to-peer activities seem to be more important to youth than to other groups.

Who are they?

I have learned that good leadership is about knowing the people you are a leader for. By knowing their strengths, weaknesses, interests, motivation and the way they want to be rewarded is the key.

Young people need leaders that really want to know them: Who are they? What motivates them? Which of their strengths would be useful in their volunteer work?

This is especially needed now as Europe is flooding with refugees and the demand for volunteers to help them is high. It’s important to make sure that those who have already signed up to volunteer should be warmly welcomed to the organization.

It’s about giving a seat

Sometimes young people complain about not being heard in branches, districts or at the national level. But the truth is that there are many places of getting heard. You just need to find them and use them.

Let me give you an example: In the Danish Red Cross Youth Leadership Academy we had an exercise where our team had to verbally guide one team member blindfolded through a small track. The other team had to shout false directions to make our team fail. Afterwards in the feedback session somebody said that the person leading should have the loudest voice. There were so many other sounds that were trying to distract from the guidance.

Of course, it’s so simple. We, as youth, should have the loudest voice. It doesn’t mean standing in the barricades and yelling your say, it’s about giving a seat to an old lady on the bus and standing by a small boy who’s been bullied by his classmates.

It’s about speaking up for others. Especially today when budgets seem to be more important than the people. Humanity – humanity should have the loudest voice.


Senja Multala (right), is the President of the Helsinki and Uusimaa District Youth Committee in the Finnish Red Cross. She loves her work, as she gets to work with amazing volunteers who are enthusiastic about what they do. She travelled to Denmark for a 13-day Danish Red Cross Youth Leadership Academy Training.

Do you want to make a difference?

At the moment The Finnish Red Cross is rewriting its rules and there is a need for young people´s voice in the workshops. Keep your eye on the event calendar for more information, contact a youth coordinator that runs activities in your region or sign up to be a volunteer. 

Text and pictures: Senja Multala