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Irish Red Cross Youth volunteers attend week-long event at Solferino in celebration of IFRC centenary. 

Against the backdrop of the 100th anniversary of the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), 15,000 Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers and more than 250 young leaders attended a week of discussions and celebrations at the 4th International Solferino Youth Meeting which began on 21 June 2019.

The event was hosted in the Italian town of Solferino, where Swiss businessman Henry Dunant witnessed a battle between Sardinian and French armies in 1859. The battle was so violent it shocked Dunant into action, and he organised the local community to provide emergency care and support to the wounded soldiers. It was these actions carried out by Dunant in Solferino which led to the creation of the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement.

The week-long event consisted of a variety of workshops which allowed participants to explore pressing issues such as climate change, digitalisation and the opportunities and threats posed by new technologies, substance abuse and the role young people can play in shaping a safer and more humane world.

Irish Red Cross Youth volunteer with Limerick city branch, Emily Guilfoyle, attended the event in Solferino with two other Irish Red Cross Youth volunteers; Caoimhé Farren from Donegal and Ronan Gannon from Mayo . Apart from the beautiful 30-degree heat and wonderful surroundings of Solferino, the opportunity to discuss and meet with other Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers from all over the world was one of the highlights for Guilfoyle. Of particular note was discussing the issue of climate change , and meeting volunteers from countries which were experiencing the impact first hand, especially those coming from areas within the Pacific Ocean. This was an experience which gave Guilfoyle “a human association with climate change that was not just putting a face to it, but a face that [I] knew.”

Guilfoyle described the week as an interesting experience in which she says both herself and her fellow Irish volunteers “took on more of a listening air”, as volunteers from developing countries recounted their first-hand experiences of climate change, something which is not experienced in Ireland on the same scale. It was these conversations, Guilfoyle says, which prompted her to take an interest in the humanitarian side of the Irish Red Cross, whereas previously her focus in Limerick has always been on administering first aid. The conversations around climate change even encouraged Ronan Gannon  to take immediate action – tackling the usage of single-use plastic from within the camp in Solferino.

The main experience which Guilfoyle took from the week-long event was the opportunity for participants to educate one another. Whether this be on issues of female empowerment, climate change or attitudes towards substance abuse, the most important point was that all those attending were able to openly discuss their different perspectives from the plethora of cultures which make up the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement.

To know more about the Irish Red Cross Youth, email Catriona at

Irish Red Cross Youth