Irish Red Cross Youth Takes Top Prize

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By Stephen Ryan in Geneva

At the General Assembly of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), held in Geneva this week, the Irish Red Cross were awarded with first place in the “Healthy youth make a healthy world” category for a newly developed programme on focusing on youth HIV and AIDS awareness training.

The project aims to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS related issues, focusing on preventing new infection and ending stigma. Discussing HIV with young people can be seen as a sensitive issue, however information can save lives, and the Irish Red Cross will adapt the programme in order to respect religious and cultural sensitivities. The course will be available in three versions, targeting separate age groups; under 15, 15–17 and over 18 years old, ensuring that the materials are appropriate to the different age groups.

“This programme was selected because not only does it use different kinds of methods to engage young people, but can be adapted to suit different target groups in the community. It’s clear that the Irish Red Cross thought about this in advance,” says Ruut-Maaria Mattsson, responsible for youth development at the IFRC’s Geneva office.

Volunteer youth leaders of Red Cross will be trained as peer educators, further training other youth members and volunteers. In the first 12 months of the programme, the Irish Red Cross intends to train at least half of their youth volunteers through this initiative. No other HIV/AIDS awareness training In Ireland is reaching as large a group of people under the age of 25 through a single programme. This age group is targeted as they are at the highest risk of contracting HIV; almost 50 per cent of new infections are among young people.

“What makes the approach effective is that it empowers those trained to become agents of change themselves, and further spread its message,” adds Mattsson.

The IFRC Youth Awards were first presented in 2005 with the aim of highlighting innovative ideas for projects to address humanitarian challenges throughout our communities and to promote youth to “do more, do better and reach further”. More information on the awards and other winners from around the world is available on the IFRC website .