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Oxford Academy team at the IHL Youth Leadership Summit in DC

This year the IHL Action Campaign convened 26 teams from 8 chapters around the country. A total of 267 students participated and produced incredibly insightful and creative materials to educate their peers and communities about IHL topics, in particular child soldiers and international justice. Through their thoughtful and engaging activities, IHL Action Campaign participants were able to reach more than 24 000 people in person and online this year. The IHL Youth Leadership Summit, which created a space to share best practices, encouraged team leaders and members to aim for an even greater impact. They will now incorporate the lessons learned into next year’s Action Campaign as they focus on two equally important topics: gender and refugees.

-Emily Kenney, Program Officer for Peer Education

IHL Action Campaign team member, Daniella, shares her thoughts and aspirations for next year.

It was a privilege to be able to go to the IHL Youth Leadership Summit this year. One of the things that I enjoyed the most was getting the opportunity to see how all of the participants in the IHL Action Campaign affected their communities through their campaign presentations. It was not only a powerful motivation but it was encouraging, and it made me proud to be a part of something that was making a difference. This experience will definitely impact what my school’s Red Cross will do this coming school year. Now that I saw the extent to which some of the schools reached their community, I aspire to not only be a part of the IHL Action Campaign next year, but also help guide the team to make an impact outside of our school. This aspiration has led me and others on the team to already start planning a wonderful campaign that will hopefully gain the attention of our school and the neighboring cities. Of course the motivation is all thanks to the training, support, and knowledge gained at the IHL Youth Leadership Summit, and my team and I are thankful for such an opportunity. I can’t wait to be a part of the campaign this year, and I know that whatever we do, we will be assisting in a cause to make the world a better place.

-Daniella, Oxford Academy

After three days of icebreakers, presentations, and guest speakers, the IHL Youth Leadership Summit is finally coming to a close. Needless to say, the opportunity to go on an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. for a few days was an excellent experience. None of us from Bradley University knew exactly what to expect, but based on what we hoped, the Summit went above and beyond. The opportunity to see all of the other teams present their campaigns demonstrated what this fantastic generation of thinkers and problem-solvers were already hard at work on in high school. Coming from an area like Central Illinois, global awareness and activism is not as much of a priority as it could be. Leaving that area and seeing what other IHL teams were up to gave me the opportunity to see that across the country, students are passionate, active, and willing to work hard for humanitarianism and global awareness.

The Bradley University team at the IHL Youth Leadership Summit

The Bradley University team at the IHL Youth Leadership Summit

Bradley University was one of the IHL Action Campaign teams to conduct a campaign on a college campus. Following our presentation, students from high school teams gave so much praise and support, that I can only say that I am humbled to have been a part of the IHL program, and inspired by high school students who see such a great value in IHL. There was not a single campaign that did not vastly exceed my expectations in one way or another. The Action Campaigns were so diverse, only adding to the already exceptional experience of uniting youth under a mutual passion for humanitarianism. Being a college team only made the Summit more exciting. Preparing to enter my second year at Bradley, I vividly remember what senior year of high school was like: college applications, college applications, AP classes, making difficult decisions about the direction of life, college applications… and that was just the first semester! To see students who are so passionate about IHL that they can rise above the stress factors to organize a campaign of the caliber I have seen here is truly astounding. The IHL team at NHQ has truly organized an amazing event that fosters healthy competition in order to bring out the amazing things that millennial activists can do for humanitarianism.

On Saturday, guest speakers on the topics of gender and refugees arrived to help inspire students for next year. From thought provoking questions on gender, to the wonderful Deng Abiel discussing his life as a resettled refugee in the United States, to the panel on refugee organizations, the guest speakers reminded us all why we are here. We are active in IHL for our communities, the communities far away from us, and most importantly, humanity. Humanity is a very abstract word, and yet, this is such a great medium to be able to remind us and others that in spite of our differences, we are all human, and deserve identity, dignity, and security.

-Joshua, Bradley University

IHL Youth Leadership Summit participants at the American Red Cross, National Headquarters

IHL Youth Leadership Summit participants at the American Red Cross, National Headquarters

High school students share their impressions of the IHL Youth Leadership Summit hosted in June 5-8, 2014 in Washington, DC.

It was fun learning from the other teams and getting to see how they interpreted and informed the public on International Humanitarian Law and Child Soldiers. I learned that there are so many ways to communicate an idea to people, and affect them in such a way that they are interested in learning more and finding a way to be active for a particular cause. I was most impressed by the extensive use of technology by some of the Action Campaigns. When Oxford Academy does the IHL Action Campaign next year, it is definitely a goal to incorporate more technological mediums which will allow for us to target more of our community. The goal for all of these incredible campaigns is to not only make a difference, but to get other people to care and want to do something too. It is awesome to be able to get more people in the Orange County, CA community involved and interested in topics that are important to reflect upon. With all of the impressive and creative ideas for the IHL Action Campaign that my group and I saw this year, we are excited to get a head start and plan an awesome campaign for next year.

-Daniella, Oxford Academy

The anticipation prior to leaving for the IHL Youth Leadership Summit is absolutely unbelievable. On so many levels, the opportunity to attend the Summit means a lot to the entire team. I, personally, have never been to Washington, which makes this opportunity all the more exciting. Furthermore, as one of pioneer college teams participating in the IHL Action Campaign, we, on the Bradley team are unfathomably grateful that our work has been recognized in such a prestigious manner. Most of all, we look forward to meeting with other teams who have invested the same level of work and effort for humanitarian values that we have. Through this, we hope to have a means of furthering our work, and fostering new ideas in order to educate even more members of the community next year.

As a group, any frontier by which we have the opportunity to present our work is a very exciting prospect. Our experience at presenting has extended far beyond the simulation itself. We have presented our campaign to the local Red Cross Chapter on two occasions, and both times received praise from an admiring board. Besides the adult audience of the Red Cross Chapter, team leader Casmeer and I were given the wonderful opportunity to present on child soldiers to a local middle school, thanks to the connections of Dr. Jeanie Bukowski, one of our most vocal supporters throughout the year. These middle school students were very bright and were very open to dialogue regarding an issue that most of them had never heard about before that day. Perhaps most impressively, Casmeer and Eileen, another team leader, collaborated on a research paper regarding integration programs for child soldiers, heavily focusing on gender issues. This (fantastic) research was presented at a conference at the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana, where Casmeer and Eileen were the only undergraduate presenters. Needless to say, the Bradley team is passionate about IHL. Having the opportunity to meet other students with similar levels of dedication is very exciting.

We each have our own specific expectations for what we will take from the Summit. Among the specific expectations, Casmeer told me, “I expect that the Summit will be full of energetic people with great ideas.  I’m really looking forward to meeting everyone and just having meaningful discussions about their IHL Action Campaigns.” Casmeer, a student of International Studies and Women’s studies, had a different answer from Rachel Teague, a freshman International Business and Spanish major, who told me that she is “eager to experience the passion and commitment that other youth from across the U.S. have shown in their efforts to raise awareness for IHL.” As for myself, I especially look forward to learning how we can raise even greater awareness for IHL. The Bradley team has worked hard, and is very excited to come to Washington, D.C. to meet teams who have worked just as hard.

-Joshua, Bradley University, Central Illinois Regional Chapter

For pictures of our IHL Action Campaign click here.

Guest Blog from American Red Cross Mile High Chapter

It wasn’t a normal ice-breaker in the Red Cross 444 Sherman Street auditorium as student humanitarian aid workers guided a blind-folded colleague through a mine field. It took minutes to move several feet. At the end of the obstacle course, a border guard demanded a visa form in an unidentified language and nonspecific fees.

What would it be like to have a humanitarian aid mission to deliver medical supplies for a severe epidemic outbreak in a refugee camp? Would you know your specific rights as an aid worker? What might delay your progress while navigating through unspent artillery and addressing unidentified border patrols?

Click here to read the full story!

We are excited to share wonderful news! The International Humanitarian Law Action Campaign teams have been selected to attend the 2nd Annual IHL Youth Leadership Summit this June 5-8 in Washington D.C. This year we had 26 teams from 8 Red Cross Chapters from around the country submit really fantastic projects showcasing their knowledge of IHL and their creative approaches to teaching their peers. Our Selection Committee had a very difficult decision in front of them, but we are very excited about the teams of university and high school students who will be joining us in D.C.

The selected teams are (in no particular order):

With so many incredible submissions, the Selection Committee decided to give special runner-up recognition to a team from the Orange County Chapter, Segerstrom High School. This Team will send their two Team Leaders to the Summit.

Moreover, teams from Porter County Chapter, Valparaiso University & Texas Gulf Coast Chapter have been contacted so that their online and board games can be incorporated into the Summit weekend. These teams really outdid their creative selves! Although they were not selected to come to D.C., we will showcase their superb work and give the Summit attendees a chance to play the games that they put together for their IHL Action Campaigns.

We would also like to specially congratulate those IHL Action Campaign teams that were not selected to attend the Summit, but whose work was extraordinary. It was a truly impressive set of projects, and all of the students and Chapter staff are very dedicated to the program!

We extend our most sincere recognition to the IHL Action Campaign Chapters in Texas Gulf Coast Region, Porter County Chapter, and Southeastern Pennsylvania.Thank you for a remarkable year of collaboration, learning and dedication. We are all very proud of your work!

 

High School students from the Texas Gulf Coast Regional Chapter share their thoughts about the International Humanitarian Law Action Campaign they spearheaded to raise awareness on the topic of child soldiers.

I can say that I am one proud Team Leader. As the only Team Leader, I expected many more challenges throughout this IHL Action Campaign. However, I have a very supportive team that has helped me throughout the entire campaign. This project has not only changed my viewpoints on war, but also this project has allowed me to develop my leading and innovation skills. With many tasks at hand and a small amount of students to do the tasks, sharing responsibilities was an important factor in our campaign. After learning about International Humanitarian Law, I was shocked and came to realize that, yes, even WARS have limits.

Milton, Team Leader

Going into this project, I can honestly say I had never heard of International Humanitarian Law in my entire life. After several hours of training, not only did I learn what IHL was, but I also learned its importance in the world. With the world as globalized as it is today, basically no one is untouched by war. All around us we have friends and family joining the army, as well as friends and family who have ran away from war. After learning about International Humanitarian Law, I realized how important it is to inform others on a topic that is so crucial yet so neglected in schools. One of the topics that IHL covers is child soldiers. Our group focused on this topic because we thought about how children our age are fighting in wars, even when we can hardly imagine the horrors of wars. Through this campaign, I learned a lot about the topic overall, but I also learned about designing real life projects. In school we learn about persuasion and work ethic, but this campaign was the biggest real application that we have had so far. Effort, punctuality, cooperation and numerous other skills were stressed during this project. By being a part of this Campaign, I have learned a great deal about IHL, as well as life skills!

Janie, Team Member

IHL Action Campaign teaches them life skills.

The IHL Action Campaign teaches them life skills.

As a high school student, life is very demanding. We live in blissful equilibrium between sleep and work and the constant social interjection. Our lives offer the hope of attending a good college or, even better, a future job. All of this is on a high school student’s radar, but one thing is always missed by people my age. We study world events and try to learn from the past, but scarcely examine the present. In this world of social media, important events shouldn’t be hard to miss; yet, very often we barely notice horrifying events across to world. Topics like IHL and child soldiers hardly ever come to mind when I look at what’s most viewed or talked about in the media. The aim of this IHL Action Campaign is to let people know what’s happening and develop empathy towards what has happened. Our lives are so interactive but, outside of our circle of people, the world is a blur. IHL exposes doctrines that I knew about in detail, such as the specifics of the Geneva Convention and other helpful clauses that dictate the course of action to be followed to preserve human dignity. We should remember that the most raw and brutal conflicts still must abide by laws that set boundaries to protect humanity.

Daniel, Team Member

Students share their knowledge of IHL.

Students share their knowledge of IHL.

I have been interested in humanitarianism and human rights for quite a while. In fact, I read articles on a day to day basis about human rights abuses all around the world. The topic of child soldiers speaks to me the most because children our age are being handed a gun and are forced to mature at such a rapid rate, far quicker than we are ever expected to do. In many countries around the world, children are either forcibly or willingly participating in warfare, and sometimes end up completely mutilated. What can we actually do to help prevent this? The IHL Action Campaign helps provide a basic foundation to involve ordinary students like us to play a role against this. However, people, not just from my community, but all around the world, should cooperate to fight against this human right abuse that has persisted throughout history.

Nikhil, Team Member

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