* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.For more information about the Empress Shoken Fund,visit www.shokenfund.org.
The projects selected showed innovative approaches to reach vulnerable minorities and adapt services to local contexts. National Societies show a clear commitment and contribution to the project implementation and sustainability.
In Chile, more than 2 million people live with âfunctional diversityâ (such as autism, Down and Asperger syndromes). The opportunities for these people to be included in working and social projects are very limited. With support from the Empress ShÃ´ken Fund grant, the Chilean Red Cross aims to create working inclusion project (catering services) by building on the existing network of Red Cross volunteers, cooperating with professional centres and staff supporting these vulnerable groups, and by working with the corporate social responsibility sectors in private companies. In this way, the National Society wants to promote positive attitudes and strategies to build on the skills and talent of people with âfunctional diversitiesâ, as well as initiate an income generating catering service that will actively involve this group in the Red Cross existing services and branches in a sustainable way.
In Honduras, young people (up to age 30) make up to 70% of the countryâs population. The national socio-economic context is highly affected by poverty, social inequality and quality of life deterioration. Youth violence is a widespread social problem due to the linkage between illicit association and youth gangs. Consequently youth are labelled, discriminated and become victims of emotional and physical violence. Through the selected project, Honduran Red Cross wants to increase its impact among vulnerable groups by promoting respect for human dignity and behavioural change. The National Society will capitalize on its past experience in the project âWidening Opportunitiesâ for youth, and complementing this approach with the âYouth as Agents of Behavioural Changeâ methodology to disseminate Red Cross humanitarian values and principles. In this way, the National Society aims to reduce the risk factors among young vulnerable groups.
In Comoros, 70% of the 12,500 National Society volunteers is made of young volunteers (younger than 30 years old). Their involvement, motivation, and availability project a good image for the National Society. However, due to the lack of initiatives and activities, some of them often leave the organization. With support from the Empress ShÃ´ken Fund grant, the Comoros Red Crescent aims to support volunteer mobilisation country-wide (across 3 islands), by training youth leaders and coordinators in order to set up local youth clubs and organise self-sustainable youth activities.
In Egypt, the Egyptian Red Crescent is positioning itself as the main reference for first aid in the country. The selected project builds on the existing competencies and capacities and allows the National Society to reach a specific vulnerable group such as deaf and mute disabled people. The Egyptian Red Crescent aims to train its volunteers in sign language, provide first aid training to deaf and mute disabled people, and further involve them in the programs and services of the Egyptian Red Crescent.
In Serbia, the Red Cross of Serbia is responsible for the implementation of the national anti-trafficking project. This project showed a specific need to reach particularly vulnerable groups such as children and youth, people with disabilities, and children without parental care. The grant from the Empress ShÃ´ken Fund will allow the National Society to capitalize on its existing organizational capacities and train Red Cross volunteer educators in 20 municipalities to organize interactive meetings and workshops in kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, in order to raise awareness among children and youth and prevent them to become victims of human traffic.
Ireland is the first country in the world where the Red Cross introduced a Community Based Health and First Aid programme through groups of special status Red Cross volunteer inmate in a prison setting. The contribution of the Empress ShÃ´ken Fund this year will allow the National Society to extend this programme in Limerick prison.
The Empress ShÃ´ken Fund was created in 1912 by Her Majesty The Empress of Japan at the 9th International Red Cross Conference to promote "relief work in time of peace". The fund is administered by a Joint Commission made up of representatives from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Joint Commission maintains regular relations with the Japanese Permanent Mission in Geneva in close cooperation with the Japanese Red Cross Society as well as the Meiji Jingu Research Institute.
Today the fund has a total value of 14 million Swiss francs, the proceeds of which are used to support projects of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable. Allocations are granted annually on 11 April, the anniversary of the death of H.M. The Empress ShÃ´ken. The first allocation was made in 1921 just after World War I to five European National Societies in support of the fight against tuberculosis, and to date the Fund assisted more than 150 National Societies.
Whilst not directly intervening in the administration of the Empress ShÃ´ken Fund, the imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Japanese people, venerate the generosity of the Empress and continue to hold in high esteem the relevance of the fund by making regular contributions. For more information about the Empress ShÃ´ken Fund, visit www.shokenfund.org.