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Empowering People

Yesterday evening I participated in the staff information and party of the Swiss Red Cross. At the information session two interesting projects were presented, which expressed creative new ways of dealing with social problems.

One was about the program called RailFair, done together with the Swiss Railways SBB and the SECO, the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs. The idea is to form volunteers – young or jobless people – to become railway assistents accompanying trains or giving their presence on stations to avoid violence and vandalism, without getting involved into violence themselves or becoming “deputy sheriffs”. The Red Cross does conflict training courses (Chili) with them and supports work integration measures with jobless people, and they learn to develop courage. People feel more secure in the trains and the stations where these “Grands frères” (great brothers) as they are called are present. They serve as role models.

The other inspiring project was about basic health promotion in Krygystan, a former Sowjet republic in Central Asia, where the health system has been eroding and the state of health especially in the rural areas had become very delicate after the collapse of the communist system. The project, initiated by the Swiss Red Cross and financed by the Swiss department of foreign affairs EDA is encouraging the village people to form health committees and organise their needs. People are supported with counseling, but they had to realise that they have to take care themselves of the situation. So they started to do sanitary instalments, cultivate herbs or fruits, make preventions against alcoolism, restore hospitals. This project has motivated the government to introduce it now in the whole country.

Both projects are exemplary for empowering people to solve problems.

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