Sunday, June 28, 2009
1859-2009: 150 years since the birth of the idea of the Red Cross Red Crescent
One hundred and fifty years ago, a battle in northern Italy led to an idea, that has since gone on to change the world. In June 1859, Henry Dunant, a young Geneva businessman, witnessed horrifying suffering and agony at the battle of Solferino. In response, he mobilized the nearby village of Castiglione to care for the wounded, regardless of their nationality. Not satisfied to forget, Dunant returned home and proposed the idea of voluntary relief societies, which are now the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, present in 186 countries throughout the world.
Isn't this an inspirational beginning which today is the largest humanitarian organisation in the world.
An estimated 13,000 Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers coming from all over the world participate in a 9 kilometer torch-lit procession in Solferino, Italy to to mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Solferino and celebrate the birth of an idea that led to the founding of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. ©ICRC/M.Kokic/27 June 2009
Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers from all over the world join together at Plazza Castello in Solferino.
©ICRC/M.Kokic/27 June 2009
Five hundred youth from 149 countries at the third Red Cross Red Crescent world youth meeting Solferino in Italy this week are planning their next move for humanity. Under the theme “Youth on the Move”, workshops, cultural exchanges and meetings are taking place as part of the 150-year anniversary of the battle of Solferino. Stephen Ryan, communications officer for youth and volunteers at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said he hoped the youth meeting would inspire concrete actions in participants from every part of the world. “History won’t be made at this meeting. This is just the start of a long journey. History will be made when people return to their home countries.” Samantha Duncan from the Grenada Red Cross Society said the best part of the meeting was learning what works in other countries. “I’m here to learn more about the best practices of other National Societies so that I can take it back to my country to improve our society and make an improvement on our programmes. “I’m here to build capacity for my National Society, take new ideas and also take old, existing ones that work for other countries and see what we can do with them and adopt them in our country.” Aaron Turner, a youth search and rescue leader and emergency response team in the New Zealand Red Cross, said he was impressed with the role of youth in other countries. “New Zealand Red Cross youth is not quite matured yet. It’s still in its really early stages and a lot of National Societies, particularly African societies, have 80 per cent of their members youth classed as youth whereas in New Zealand it’s less than 5. “It’s just fantastic to see the energy and vitality these countries bring. And it’s a lot to learn from.” He said he would try to take home the spirit of enthusiasm and communication. “My next move is to take back the motivation and the vitality that’s here. It’s just insane. The opening ceremony was something I’d never experienced before and I completely underestimated it. It’s something we want to take back to New Zealand. “To start a Pacific forum or to increase communication would just be fantastic.” Hadhya Al Zawm, a volunteer co-ordinator in the Yemen Red Crescent Society, said she was inspired by the Red Cross Red Crescent’s global values of humanity, independence, neutrality, impartiality, voluntary action, universality and unity. “I am here to meet our other brothers and sisters in the Movement. It was my dream to be here and to participate with other youth. And not to see not only in Yemen but all over the world that we all believe in the same fundamental principles and we do the same volunteering work and the same activities.”
Thanks to Rosemary North, IFRC or her article and the ICRC for photographs.
The need for humanitarian action is no less today than it was in Dunant’s time. So from 28 June 2009, Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and staff got her in Italy to remember the past, but also to look to the future. The world is changing, and so too are the challenges.
Simple gestures can make a difference - Make yours.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Stage name: Eugene
Real name: 김유진 / Kim Yoo Jin (Gim Yu Jin) 金柳真
Profession: Singer and actress
Date of birth: 1981-Mar-03
Place of birth: Seoul, South Korea
Blood type: A
Name:Uhm Jung Hwa (Eom Jeong Hwa)
Profession: Actress and singer
Star sign: Leo
Blood type: A
Family: Younger brother/actor Uhm Tae Woong
Talent agency: Sim Entertaiment
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Another kind of treasure waited to be found
In July 1978, I returned to Ethiopia to work for the International Red Cross on a large relief operation for two million famine-stricken people. Having previously climbed the two highest mountains in Ethiopia in 1974, Mt. Ras Dashan (4757 m) and Mt. Buahit (4267 m), I began pouring over maps of Africa to see where I might be able to climb during a week’s holiday at Christmas 1978.
During the many weeks I spent in the highlands of Ethiopia in the course of my work, I become fascinated
Listening to my Ethiopian colleagues telling numerous stories and legends of their country’s rich and ancient history, and I was surprised to hear numerous mentions of Kilimanjaro.
When in the capital I spent a lot of my evenings searching for written account of Kilimanjaro in Ethiopian history and after many months I located a publication in the Tanzanian Embassy which featured a reprint by Dr. R. Reusch in the Tanganyika Standard of February 10, 1828. It read “ For thousands of years these mountains have stood, becoming more and more interwoven with legends. Even in Abyssinia (pre-war name of Ethiopia), Mt. Kibo, the highest summit of Kilimanjaro, is known and one remarkable legend, told me beside the camp fire by old Abyssinian soldiers and hunters is connected with this snow clad mountain. When the first king of of Abyssinia, son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, called Menelik I, who governed Tigre as Negusie-Negesshti (King of Kings) had completed his successful conquest of Shoa in southern Ethiopia, Somaliland, Kenya Colony and nor then Tanganyika, and was on his return journey bringing with him much spoils of wars he one day encamped on a desert-like stretch of land which unites Mt. Kibo and Mawenzi, at a height of 15,000 feet. He was old and tired of life and felt death drawing near. But because he was King he wanted to die as a King.
“ King I am and as King I wish to die,” he said to his followers One morning he bid his army farewell and accompanied by a few of his warlords and slaves, who carried his jewels and treasure, he began to ascend the mountain.
His soldiers below followed him with their eyes until he reached the boundary of the eternal snows where cloud encompassed him. In the evening the warlords returned without their King, for he had entered into the crater of the mountain with his slaves, jewels and treasure. And here he will sleep forever. But an offspring of his family will arise and restore the old glory of Ethiopian conquering all the land to the Rufiji River. He will ascend Mt. Kibo, find the jewels of Menelik I, among which will be the seal ring of Solomon which the old King has upon his finger. The ring he will put on his own hand and from this moment he will be endowed with the wisdom of Solomon. Also the heroic spirit of the old King will rest upon him. Thus says the legend.
Fired with the thoughts of treasure and the wisdom of Solomon I arrived at Marangu on December 16, 1978, a small village on the south-west slopes of Kilimanjaro. The base of Kilimanjaro measures 50 by 30 miles in an east-south-east direction. It consists of three major volcanic centres, Kibo 19,349 ft in the centre, Mawenzi 16,890 ft in the east, and Shira 13,140 in the west. Uhuru peak 19340 ft on Kibo, is the highest point in Africa.
Not having any climbing gear and clad only in street clothes when I arrived , I was lucky to be able to borrow a pair of climbing boots from a Bavarian geologist who had fortunately dislocated a shoulder. I hired some warmer clothes from the national park headquarters. I was fortunate finding a local farmer, Valerian, from the Chagga tribe who was keen to accompany me and carry fire wood and water for cooking.
Sign at the Kilimanjaro National Park headquarters/ (note spelling)
Valerian, like so many other Chagga, supplements his income by carrying loads, and if required will guide tourists in snow-free-conditions to Gilman;s point on the crater rim.
Living on the slopes of this great mountain the Chagga have a single finite clear focus on their country, a rare thing for African people whose eyes are so often fixed on stretches of undifferentiated bush or desert reaching indctermunatedly to the horizon. This gives the Chagga people a focus, a precise position in a single great mountain which is one of the most naturally fertile in Africa.
I had hoped to have a look perhaps climb one of the more interesting routes on Kilimanjaro but unseasonal weather over the whole of east- Africa had brought snow down to 12,000 feet. The first three days on the normal route is a delightful walk through constantly changing scenery: from 5000ft at Marangu to 15,450ft the last hut on the mountain.
The first day took us through rain forests comprising a variety of trees ferns with brambles and lichens growing in the trunks and branches. Occasionally we saw clusters of orchids, blue monkeys and small frightened birds. Between 8.000 and 12,000 feet the forest gradually changes to Podocarpus Milanjianus family and Hypernicum revolutum community. Around this altitude one meets with the first of three giant groundsels (photo opposite) endemic to Kilimanjaro (Scenico Johnsyonni), sometimes attaining a height of 30 feet.
The following day we emerged onto the upland grasslands. Here the everlasting flowers begin to become conspicuous. These grasslands almost extend to Horombo Hut at 12,299 feet surrounded by heath-like plants. On the third day we passed through alpine bogs dotted with giant Groundsel and giant Lobelia, a large short-lived herb which grows up to 12 feet. This landscape was identical to one I had seen four years earlier when climbing Mt. Ras Dashan in Ethiopia.
Mt.Mawenzi, from the saddle between Mt. Kibo and Mawenzi. Photo: Bob McKerrow
As we proceeded north over the seven miles between Mawenzi and Kibo, much of the distance being a saddle, the vegetation petered out to form an alpine desert. Here few plants survive because of the extremely low rainfall and temperature. The fresh snow had sorted the tourists out from the more adventurous leaving Valerian and I almost alone in the hut. The next morning we left the hut by moonlight at 1.30 am. It took us one and a half hours to reach Hans Meyer Cave which was completely full of snow. I thought of Eric Shipton and Bill Tilman who spent a night here in 1929 on their way to the summit. They also struck waist-deep snow and Tilman suffered from altitude sickness and vomited frequently.
From here on it was a steepish plod on snow-covered scree to Gilman’s Point at the crater rim, which we reached at 5.30 am in time to see a wild African sunrise.
At the crater rim of Kilimanjaro
Valerian heading towards Mt. Kibo. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Here the snow was very deep and the frozen crust would just support our weight. After the magnificent sunrise clouds began swirling over over the north-east crater rim as we headed towards Uhuru Peak a mile and a half away. With the rising temperatures we began breaking through the crust into deep powder snow.
The edge of the glacier on the crater rim
To avoid the fresh snow we traversed over a series of small peaks which had less snow an their wind-blown crests. Two hours of wading through waist deep snow, we furrowed ourselves to the summit.
Valerian, a local Chagga farmer, on the summit of Kibo Peak, the highest point on Mt. Kilimanjaro. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Our view down the mountain was obscured by cloud. But we could see the whole crater and surrounds but, because of the thick mantle of snow it looked so different, almost featureless, from previous photographs.
We dug into the four feet of snow which covered the summit and found the plaque installed many years ago which cites a speech of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere on Tanganyika’s independecane in 1961.
I thought of the great King Menelik and his buried treasure on this mountain. I think it best be left on the mountain for greed has already caused enough suffering in Africa.
I spent the last night in Tanzania with Valerian and his family. As happy children and piglets squealed around our feet and beer trickled down our throats, I thought that happiness like this is preferable to treasure.
Footnote: This article was rejected by Colin Monteath editor of the New Zealand Alpine Journal in 1978. Later, that illustrious North Island daily, the Manawatu Standard, published it in its Christmas Edition as a feature, on 24 December 1979.