16 Jul

Greetings from the Solferino Academy!

Red Cross volunteers Markus and Laura participated last month in Solferino Academy in Italy. During the one week meeting, volunteers had the change to meet people from all over the world and discuss about humanitarian issues.

Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get. This well-known fact also applies to Solferino Academy.

Solferino Markus

Markus with the other participants.

The point of the whole Solferino Academy initiative is to bring people around the world together to come up with ways how to make this planet a better place to live in. This year special focus was put on fundamental principles. Academy consisted of five days Agents of Behavioral Change (ABC) training, half-day long Roundtable dialogue and finally, the traditional Fiaccolata march with torches. Sounds vague? Well, to tell you the truth, it is. It certainly is like a box of unknown chocolates.

ABC training was the reason why it seemed worth the effort to figure out what kind of sweets were hidden in this box. It is a peer educator training for ethical leadership that was developed a few years ago by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. This training is aimed at giving participants the interpersonal skills and tools to be able to have a positive change in the mindsets of peers. The methodology of ABC training is experiential learning through the use of games and simulation exercises followed by discussions.

The ABC training was everything that it promised to be and even more! The group of 14 participants was as diverse as it can get in all aspects; geographically, professionally, age, Red Cross experience… This diversity, combined with the way the training was run (by challenging the participants to think, to be active and to try out the tools themselves), ignited many moments of reflection, some of which turned out to be paradigm shifting!

Solferino elvytys

This, I bet, is the point of the whole training. If one wants to see a true behavioral change on someone, it has to start from an inner change in the person. And in order to understand such an inner change, it is beneficial to know yourself how it feels.

It would be perfect if all the participants would use the skills to create projects that have positive change in the society. But even if not, these lessons gave great personal value. I would imagine all the participants learned something about themselves during this course. Therefore a positive change was already made in the lives of the participants.

Solferino Laura

Laura with Mr. Elhadj As Sy, the Secretary General of the IFRC.

After five days though, this training came to an end. There would have been enough material to use for several weeks on learning and practicing this material, but we were about to move on to the Roundtable discussion.

In the Roundtable discussion a lot of effort had been used to bring important key note speakers, for example Mr. Elhadj As Sy, the Secretary General of the IFRC. It was great to hear these excellent speeches from inspirational speakers but the “think-tank” part of the Roundtable wasn’t as good as I was hoping for.

The week ended in the annual Fiaccolata. Fiaccolata is a 10 kilometres walk from Solferino to Castiglione delle Stiviere; the same walk that was taken by people helping the wounded in the battle of Solferino. This walk takes place in the night and everyone have torched with them. It is a magical walk and a befitting ending for Solferino Academy. A real cherry on the cake. Or on the box of chocolate.

Markus Neuvonen, photos Laura Musta

14 May


This is the third part of our series of Red Cross’ principles. You can find the first post here and the second one here. Youth delegate Laura Leino asked the volunteers and workers at the Red Cross Nyeri Branch in Central Highlands of Kenya what the seven principles mean to them.

The initial letters of the seven Red Cross principles are often heard as salute at youth gatherings of Kenyan Red Cross. All of the members know the initials by heart and the HINIVUU-greeting emphasizes the unity of the members, however there is more essential meaning behind the letters.



“Humanity is like a kind heart. Red Cross is an organisation that helps people regardless of financial charges. Humanity to me is doing good without expecting anything in return.” -Sabina, Intern at Nyeri Branch



“You should not discriminate against any gender, race, political stand or age. No discrimination at all. For example in terms of disaster a friend of mine has been mildly affected by accident and there are other people who have been more seriously injured. I should not go to help my friend at first but serve the most injured first.” -Fidelis, Nyeri Branch Coordinator



“Neutrality is state of being fair in everything. I have seen the principal in action in disaster response where we help each and every person equally. If there has been a fire we treat the caretaker and landlord with the same respect.” -Terry, Receptionist at Nyeri Branch



“Kenyan Red Cross runs its programs or the emergency response independently. There was a time we responded to a situation where a school bus carrying children had been drift out of the road. There was a delegation visiting from Norwegian Red Cross last week and they participated to a fire incident together with us.” -Daniel, Head Chef at the Boma Restaurant in Nyeri Branch



“For me voluntary service is helping the community. I am nutritionist and a new volunteer at Red Cross. I am currently planning to start a deworming project in primary and secondary schools.” -Rachel, Volunteer at Nyeri Branch



“People should always be united, like kids of the same mother and so should be the Red Cross societies.” -John, Tree Nursery officer



“Everywhere in the world and all around Kenya there is Red Cross. No matter where you are, there is Red Cross that will help you. It´s the helping hand who doesn’t choose which tribe you are of how you look.” -Rebecca, Guard at the Nyeri Branch

Laura Leino

Laura was working as a youth delegate in Kenya for six months. The first three months she worked in the head office of Kenya Red Cross Society in the youth and voluntary service programmes in Nairobi. After that she helped to build the capacity of youth volunteers at Nyeri branch.