Monday, May 25, 2015

Red Cross Folk Hero

Swiss Civic Folk Hero

 Henry Dunant was a civic folk hero. Born in Geneva, Switzerland, this International Red Cross founder and organizer of the first YMCA and organized the Geneva Conventions of 1863 and 1864.  

He was born into a household that was civic-minded, religious and humanitarian. His father helped orphans and parolees and his mother worked with the sick and the poor.

Although he left college at the age of 21 because of poor grades, he went on to publish his very first book, Notice sur la Regence de Tunis. While it contained his travel observations, it also included a moving chapter on the topic of slavery in the United States and elsewhere.

Following the 19th century Battle of Solferino (1859) in which nearly forty-thousand casualties were reported in an effort to drive the Austrians out of Italy, he organized valuable emergency aid services for the wounded. From there he developed a plan that inspired voluntary relief societies in several countries to help alleviate suffering and prevent war.

In 1863, he was a member of the Geneva Society for Public Welfare’s committee appointed to evaluate the possibility of putting the plan into action. Due to its call for an international conference, the Red Cross has founded. On the 22th of August 1864, 12 nations signed the international treaty, known as Geneva Convention.

Dunant’s personal insight was transformed into an international treaty. The scope of the Red Cross has extended, covering naval personnel in wartime and alleviating the difficulties caused by the natural disasters in peacetime. 

However, in 1867, following bankruptcy due to bad management of North African water rights he was involved with, he turned his full attention on humanitarian pursuits, such as hospice. In 1895 he was awarded honors and prizes for his efforts and in 1901, nine years before he died, he became the first Swiss Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

He was buried in Zurich and per his will left funds for a "free bed" in the Heiden nursing home always to be available for a poor citizen of the region.

Read more about Dunant.  To learn about another folk hero who made a nursing difference, click here

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