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

28 May

“The best thing has been the people”


Finnish Red Cross arranges every year a basic training for youth delegates. This year the training brought together 30 young people from Kenya, Argentina, Estonia, Jordan, El Salvador and from all around Finland.

For Cecilia Pensar participating in the youth delegate training was a logical step to take.

– I want to go abroad and work in another country in the future. In the training we’ve done a lot of different kinds of group works which have been really useful. First of all I’ve learned what I could do as a facilitator. I didn’t realise before, how important it is for a youth delegate to know how to arrange activities like plays and presentations. Besides that, it’s been beneficial to get to know more about myself. The group works that we’ve been doing here have given an insight on how I might react in different and new situations.


– Sauna! First I thought it was weird, like who really enjoys it. But the part when you go swimming and feel the blood running in your veins because of the change of the temperature is really relaxing, Patrick Kibe laughs when he’s been asked to describe the experience of being in Finland for the first time.

Kibe has been a volunteer in the Kenya Red Cross for seven years. He’s especially interested in the youth involvement and youth engagement and wanted to learn about youth activities in the Finnish Red Cross.

– I feel like I fit in here among these people. I’ve had amazing conversations with them and it’s been great to meet people who share the same ideas.


– I came here because I want to have an opportunity to work abroad and I wanted to learn new things about the Red Cross. It’s been great to meet people who are active in so many ways. The training has also inspired me to do more voluntary work in the Red Cross’ domestic activities, Katharina Marbach says.


Jenniffer Aguilar has been working in the Salvadorian Red Cross for almost two years.

– Salvadorian Red Cross has the same kind of challenges that Finnish Red Cross has. It has been great to talk about them and get new ideas to develop our activities in El Salvador. I also have got more motivation to help people by doing voluntary work, she tells.

It is the first time for Aguilar to be in Europe and Finland. She’s grateful that she had the possibility to participate in the training.

– It is so different in here compared to my home country where safety is for example a big issue. The nature, food and people have been amazing. I’ve enjoyed everything about the trip.


– Best thing about the course has been the people in here. I’ve enjoyed hearing about their experiences and hopes. While working as a Red Cross youth delegate I could make a change in a sustainable way, Sara Mähönen tells.


Jutta Linna has been a volunteer in the Finnish Red Cross for around one and half years. She suggests every young person to learn about the domestic activities of Red Cross before participating the youth delegate training.

– I came here to obviously learn more, but also to figure out if I’m capable of working abroad. I know, I wouldn’t be ready to go everywhere, but I’d like to participate in development projects and plan activities for young people in different countries. It’s been a really intensive course and I think participating in it is a good way to see if you’re ready to go abroad on a mission, Linna says.

Paula Pihlava