Lasting friendships

From: “Cross Roads” Fiji Red Cross Society – October-December 2007

The Red Cross Movement is unique in many ways. The friendships formed between volunteers and staff span decades for many reasons not the least amongst which are their commitment to the principles and the call to service.
Dr Massimo Barra, president of the Italian Red Cross and Dev Ratna Dhakhwa, Secretary General of the Nepal Red Cross have through the Movement, formed a unique friendship spanning almost five decades. Between the two of them, there is nearly a century of service to humanity a proud and enviable record for two of the Movement’s career sons.
Recently, Dr. Barra was appointed to the Joint Commission as one of its members, another milestone in his already illustrious career.
In this exclusive Q&A, Massimo and Dev share theirspecial story.

1. When did you first become involved with Red Cross and why?
MB: At the age of 8. A family friend was an Italian Red Cross voluntary nurse. She lived in front of my family’s apartment and she had neither sons nor daughters. I was used to spend more time with her rather than with my family, and I often saw her in her Red Cross uniform. On May, 5,1955 she took me on the streets of Rome in order to raise funds for the Italian Red Cross. That was my first service for my National Society.
DD: I got involved with Red Cross in 1965 in response to the call for the position of the National Director of Nepal Red Cross Youth and Junior Red Cross. I got selected for the said position which eventually attached me to Red Cross Movement almost for ever. The reason for my joining this movement is due to its attractive and impartial principles as well as its global humanitarian network.

2. What area of RC work have you been involved in over the years?
MB: I have been chairman of the Youth of the Rome RC branch and afterwards at the national level, then national chairman of the relief volunteers for more than 20 years. In the same time, I founded Villa Maraini, one of the first therapeutic communities for drug addicts in Italy, which I have directed for more than 30 years.
DD: Youth activities in the beginning, then disaster and community development activities gradually moving towards the central leadership positions covering all activities of the society.

3. What is it about RC that inspired you to serve within it for so long?
MB: The Red Cross represents a high model and value, which can modify a person’s life, as it has happened to me: I become a medical doctor because I already was in the Red Cross, and not the other way round. The respect for our Fundamental Principles inspired me not to be a factitious person and to focus my energies on the most vulnerable ones, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, political ideas and social conditions.
DD: The activities of the Society itself grew remarkably in Nepal with more and more participation of diverse sections of the population in providing tangible services to the people through relief as well as development activities. The complex and challenging development programs demanded equally competent management mechanism as well which kept me bound with the society. Attachment and interesting developments of the organisation are the major causes of my continuity. However, being involved in the governance and organizational activities, I experienced a lot of flexibility in involving myself in other professional areas as well for my living and research works.

4. What are some of the significant (or historical) milestones have you witnessed within the Movement?
MB: The last one has been the adoption of the new Emblem, with the inclusion into our Movement of the Magen David Adorn and the Palestine Red Crescent Society. Concerning Italy, I remember the demonstration I made together with 20,000 Italian Red Cross volunteers, in order to ask our Government for a more modern and democratic Statute for the Italian Red Cross.
DD: The movement has undergone major conceptual changes in the beginning of the decade of the eighties when the community based development concepts started. In Nepal we started community based health program in 1980 or slightly before. The decade of the nineties is remarkable for streamlining the activities of all National Societies through its strategies (and) Strategy 2010 gave strategic direction to all the National Societies to work in cohesion with the global movement. With the Seville Agreement, all components of the movement come closer and closer in working together and attempting to behave like one Movement.

5. So much has happened in the last half century, how important is the work of RC in bringing relief during crisis situations?
MB: The Red Cross is one of the few hopes for the humanity, not only for its material aspects, but also for the psychological support and human sympathy that it offers to all the victims. I have personally witnessed how this aspect is of a fundamental importance while taking part in the Italian Red Cross relief activities after natural disasters such as earthquakes, landslide and flooding struck Italy.
DD: It is very much important because of its nature of formation and statutory status and involvement (with) governments, the (Geneva) conventions and the National Societies. (Segue alla pagina successiva >>)