Generation Y and IHL: Why Should Millennials Care?

Post by  Jessica Lach, IHL Youth Education Intern. Originally posted on the Humanity in War blog.


DeathtoStock_SlowDown2-300x200Millennials, the generation born between 1980 and the mid-2000s, are said to be full of complexities and firsts. Born in 1994, I consider myself a true millennial because I check most of the required boxes: I had Internet access during my formative years and social media as I grew into adulthood, and I learned all about the economy by watching the effects of the 2008 Global Economic Recession. Most importantly, me and my generation have been overexposed to media more so than any other generation preceding us. Despite all the information we are regularly thrown, we sometimes have skewed perspectives, especially when it comes to putting International Humanitarian Law into context.

A New Way of Getting and Processing Information

Millennials are the first generation to collectively form a true companionship with something lacking a living pulse — in other words, our smartphones have become a part of our daily lives and regular communications. Not only are our smartphones an extension of ourselves, but they are how we see the world we are living in. I know I am not the only one guilty of checking my social media news feeds before I even get out of bed in the morning. After all, about “six-in-ten online Millennials (61%) report getting [political] news on Facebook in a given week, a much larger percentage than turn to any other news source, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis”. From the comfort of bed, I can become fully aware of what the weather is like, how political situations across the world are panning out, and, most importantly, what a Kardashian sister ordered from Starbucks. New technological apps have simply become parts of our daily routines. Having progressed from Myspace home pages and then Facebook timelines, to Twitter feeds and Instagram posts, we Millennials have now found ourselves getting a look at daily life from 10-second Snapchat stories. From Snapchat, members of Generation Y have learned about the Greek referendum and other world events through the eyes of people much like ourselves. Furthermore, we are a generation that relaxes to the welcome screen of Netflix and opening chime of Xbox.

A Skewed Version of Reality, Including Rules of War

DeathtoStock_Wired10-300x200However, with the movies and video games which we regularly expose ourselves to through these and other services, a lot of what we see is not entirely accurate when it comes to properly portraying the rules of war. Common dystopian novels and movies, like The Hunger Games and Batman, regularly show scenes of destruction to civilian compounds and even the use of child soldiers, both of which are prohibited under IHL. Popular video games also tend to portray a world of warfare that skews the reality of what a wartime conflict is like and the real protections that are in place. I facilitated a Raid Cross activity once, during which my team and I hosted an open discussion about what the rules of war include. Throughout this discussion, many students tried to tell us that it was okay to take items off of deceased soldiers since this action is permitted in the popular video game Call of Duty.

Before I learned about IHL, I never really thought that rules of war existed, especially since modern media rarely displays them. Although I know fiction is merely fiction, when something is regularly portrayed, it can be easy to apply it to real life. For example, regularly watching movies like The Hunger Games may lead young people to believe that children carrying and firing weaponry is normal, whereas it is prohibited under IHL. The Call of Duty instance above is another example.



Why Understanding IHL Protections Is Critical

Though Millennials are a generation of information seekers and seem to always be plugged in, the result is that we can easily skew information and not fully understand the true implications of what we are exposed to in the media. When prompted with the question of “Why should Millennials care about IHL?”, the answer is simple: we are exposed to wartime conflicts more so than any other generation before us was from the media, meaning it is important that we understand the protections granted under IHL. It is imperative that we understand that what we see in the media is not always legal, not only because the rules of war are important but also because they may be vital to the strangers we see gracing our Snapchat stories an ocean away. As Millennials, we watch snippets about life on the frontlines on our Facebook timelines and then sit down and relax to Game of Thrones, all while forgetting that there are rules of war that, in effect, help shape the conflicts of our day. Though we are a generation known for our overexposure, we are also one of great conviction- a similar conviction that was found in the creation of the Geneva Conventions decades ago.

International Youth Day: Carolyn’s Powerful Survival Story

August 12 is International Youth Day! And the American Red Cross is celebrating our young partners like Carolyn Strzalka, President of the Red Cross Club at the University of Michigan. Carolyn is a blood recipient, a donor and a Red Cross volunteer.

Here’s Carolyn’s Inspiring Story:

Carolyn-Strzalka In high school I was an active student. I volunteered regularly at a local animal shelter and organized local food donation drives in addition to working hard on my studies. As varsity soccer captain, I ate healthy and exercised, making sure to take care of my health. So when I turned 18 and started experiencing sharp abdominal pains I knew something was not right.

When my doctor told me that I needed to have my gall bladder removed two days before moving into my college dorm I was nervous I would miss out on all the welcome week activities. As a stubborn 18 year old, I adamantly told him that after my cholecystectomy I would be going off to college. He explained to me the surgery was an out-patient surgery and I should be recovered enough to partake in any non-strenuous activities. But the day after I moved into my dorm room I knew something was not right. After not being able to keep any food down and almost fainting walking back to my dorm room I called my mom and asked her to take me to the hospital.

In the emergency room, the physicians told my parents that there was a very low chance that I would survive. I had been internally bleeding into my stomach for 3 days and my red blood cell levels were at a third of what they should have been. He suggested I receive two blood transfusions, but cautioned my parents that it may already be too late. Fortunately, the blood transfusions saved my life.

I am beyond thankful for the blood donors whose donations have allowed me to be alive today. These donors have a special place in my heart because I have type O negative blood and can only receive blood from other type O negative people.

After this experience I wanted to give back to blood donors who helped save lives like mine. However, after receiving a blood transfusion you are not able to donate blood for a year. So I began volunteering at blood drives to let people know how much their donation meant to people like me. While volunteering I got to hear inspiring stories about why other people donated blood, including stories from people who donate blood every 56 days. After experiencing the need for blood donations first hand, I now am inspired to donate every 56 days as well.

How to Get Involved:

Join Carolyn by choosing to make a difference in your community this summer with the Red Cross, either through blood donation, taking a babysitting class or volunteering. You can find more ways to get involved at #ChooseYourDay

Dakota Bradley Named Ambassador for Red Cross Fire Mission

After losing his childhood home in a house fire at the age of 15, singer/songwriter Dakota Bradley has a personal connection to those who know all too well what the fire takes from people.  Growing up in St. Louis, MO, Bradley moved to Nashville, TN at the age of 16 after his family lost everything in a house fire. This life-changing experience is the inspiration behind Bradley’s passion to partner with the American Red Cross and to serve as an Ambassador for our home fire campaign to reduce fire deaths and injuries by 25%.

“Losing my home in a fire was devastating. I am honored to partner with the American Red Cross in hopes to prevent similar tragedies, as well as a way to help fire victims,” says Bradley.“>

To kick off the yearlong giving campaign, Bradley will donate $0.50 to the American Red Cross for every digital purchase of “Name On It” sold between now and September 30, 2015. You can download his new single by visiting iTunes.  Your gift to Home Fire Relief enables the Red Cross to provide critical services to people impacted by home fires along with the lifesaving tools and information to support home fire prevention efforts.“>


Red Cross Renews Memorandum of Agreement with FEMA


The American Red Cross has renewed its Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The MOA is aimed at defining the overarching goals of the relationship between the two organizations. The Red Cross and FEMA last signed an MOA in 2010. The 2010 MOA focused on the collaboration between the two organizations in coordinating and delivering mass care services during disaster responses, and specifically on the Red Cross role as co-lead for mass care portion of Emergency Support Function-6, one of 15 Emergency Support Functions identified in the National Response Framework.

Since 2010, both FEMA and the Red Cross have enhanced their perspective to include all phases of the disaster cycle. In 2011, President Obama signed Presidential Policy Directive 8, which tasked FEMA with coordinating the production of National Planning Frameworks across the disaster cycle, including prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. In 2012, the Red Cross undertook a business process reengineering effort that resulted in alignment of its disaster preparedness, response, and recovery mission areas.

While the MOA still addresses the Red Cross co-lead role in Emergency Support Function-6, it also recognizes the important role the Red Cross plays in other Emergency Support Functions, Recovery Support Functions, and preparedness functions.

“This renewed MOA is a great reflection of Disaster Cycle Services and the goals and vision we set with re-engineering,” said Richard Reed, Senior Vice-President for Disaster Cycle Services.  “Working together with FEMA, we expanded our agreement to ensure our partnership covered the entire disaster cycle.  And we now have an agreement that is not only more strategic in nature but also speaks to the specifics of how our two organizations work together in preparedness, response and recovery.”

The MOA can be found on the Government MOU Index on The Exchange.  Contact the Emergency Management Coordination unit with questions.

Service to the Armed Forces Reconnection Workshop

Author: Fatima Yusuf (Summer Intern)

When soldiers return home, they can have a a joyous yet, sometimes a stressful time adjusting to their new life after service. While most military families are excited to see their beloved ones return from deployment, many are faced with the challenges of rebuilding relationships within their homes and community.

The American Red Cross in partnership with Walmart has been providing “Reconnection Workshops” for military families allowing for positive reunions for military families and their returning deployed military loved ones.

The workshops are free and are run by actively licensed and specially trained Red Cross mental health volunteers. Topics that are discussed include: managing anger, supporting children, post traumatic stress disorder, building communication, and other topics critical to reunion adjustment. This workshop is a complement of the “Red Cross Coping with Deployments: Psychological First Aid for Military Families” program which focuses on building resiliency and coping with challenges of the deployment cycle. Both programs have shown a remarkable amount of progress in providing service members and their families a tool to grow in terms of their relationships. The workshop in all it’s glory demonstrates how a positive environment to communicate can lead a long way in comforting our service members as they return back to their beloved homeland.

Tobrin Hewitt, Service to the Armed Forces Program Manager of the American Red Cross Gold Country Region shared his perspective on the program in an interview:

  1. Why is the “Reconnection Workshop” a program families should consider during the return of deployed military family members?

“A lot of service members return home from deployments and successfully readjust to their lives and within their community; however, some solders have a harder time transitioning back from the high tempo of a deployment. Some of the challenges that service members face include readjusting to their partners, engaging children, redefining the family routine, and managing health problems that can be present after deployment.”

  1. What is the most rewarding part of the program for most families?

“The tools that service members gain from these workshops which are instrumental in rebuilding positive relationships with their own families and society.”

  1. How is the program usually run and what can attendees expect from a session?

“The workshops are small groups (3-12) and they are 90 minutes long. One of five topics that will be discussed will be selected based on the needs of the individual group during each specific workshop session. Some important topics include communicating clearly, exploring stress and trauma, identifying depression, relating to children, and working through anger.”

  1. Is there anything crucial that the attendees should consider or prepare for before they attend a session?

“The workshops are geared towards participation so including service members personal experiences helps towards the overall effectiveness of the workshop.”

The workshop is available to all service members and their family members interested in seeking post-deployment support.

For more information visit our website or contact SAF Manager Tobrin Hewitt.

Three Months Later: Red Cross Recovery Efforts Ongoing in Nepal

RC in Nepal


Three months have passed since the devastating earthquake rocked Nepal and its aftershocks shook surrounding locations. The Red Cross is still there providing relief and helping to rebuild.

On April 25, 2015 Nepal was severely impacted by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, which took the lives of many and left others homeless and in a state of helplessness.

Click the Infographic to enlarge

5.6 million people were affected, and of that number 17,932 people were injured and 8,856 people were killed. On top of the loss of lives 543,034 houses were destroyed.

To date nearly 8,000 Red Cross volunteers and staff have been deployed, and more than $13.6 million have been spent or committed to emergency relief and shelter and cash distribution.

With generous support and donations we have provided health services including medical care, first aid and psychosocial support; we’ve distributed more than 2.8 million liters of safe water, and more than 7,000 relief kits and hygiene kits have been distributed to Nepal survivors.

 This natural disaster was one of the largest to strike Nepal since 1934, and we will continue to do all that we can to assist with the restoration and rebuild of Nepal. Our primary areas of focus are food, water, shelter, health care and cash grants.

We are confident that we can extend our hand to aid in relief efforts.

Read some of the stories of the people impacted by this disaster:


Clara Barton For #TheNew10



The U.S. Department of the Treasury recently announced a redesign of the ten-dollar bill, to include a notable woman as the new face of the bill. Many minds at the Red Cross jumped immediately to our founder, Clara Barton. Here is a brief summary of who she was!

Barton is one of the most honored women in American history. She was a schoolteacher and also one of the first women to work for the federal government.


Risking her life, Barton offered support, food and supplies to soldiers who were fighting in the Civil War. In 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War, Barton used her expertise to help distribute relief supplies and set up stations where work could be done.

On May 21, 1881, Barton and a group of like-minded individuals founded the American Association of the Red Cross, and she led it for 23 years! The Red Cross received its first congressional charter in 1900 and a second in 1905.


Since then Barton published several books pertaining to the American Red Cross. She had a special interest for things that would promote a better future for all like education, prison reform, women’s suffrage, civil rights, and even spiritualism.


Barton has contributed so much to so many, and her devout love for humanity along with her willingness to serve others was revealed time and time again through her actions, and resulted in enough achievements to fill several ordinary lifetimes.


For more information on the history of Clara Barton visit,