The Red Cross

Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross after the American Civil War on May 21, 1881.  She modeled it after the Swiss Red Cross which she learned about after the war. Less than 20 years later, the American Red Cross received its congressional charter, recognizing them as an official organization in the United States.  Once they were chartered, the United States asked for assistance serving the military personnel who were wounded. 

This service began over 140 years ago and continues today. Barton ran the Red Cross for the first twenty-three years, helping both in the United States and in other countries as well. After she resigned, the organization was recharted in 1905 under new leadership, dedicated to continuing Barton’s vision. As World War I approached, the Red Cross introduced three programs: first aid, water safety, and public health nursing to prepare for future disasters. 

Their first aid training helps people to prepare for any emergency that may arise. Participants learn how to handle situations such as cuts, sprained ankles, broken bones, and more. Today, many jobs require knowledge of first aid, and many chose to take this valuable course so that they will be ready should anything happen. 

While it is important to know how to offer aid, it is equally essential to learn how to prevent accidents from happening. One of the ways the Red Cross helps with this is by teaching people water safety skills. They offer swim lessons to people of all ages and promote the use of lifejackets when in the water or on boats. People can drown in both large and small bodies of water, and knowing how to swim could potentially help save lives. 

The Red Cross also encourages people to be “water competent.” This means understanding your own limitations in the water This is different for everyone based on age, health, general knowledge, and ability. They also teach the buddy system. The Red Cross teaches swimmers how to recognize when someone is in distress and what to do to keep everyone safe. 

Public health nursing is helping people with their health, through accepted scientific practices. The Red Cross brings nurses, both civilian and military, together to help with disasters. Nurses are an integral part of health care because they spend a lot of time with the patient, so they have to be well-trained in how to help them.  Nurses also serve as a liaison between patients and doctors. 

During World War II, the Red Cross started a blood donation program. There are rules around giving blood to ensure that donors are kept safe. A person can donate blood six times a year.  They must be sixteen and at least 110 pounds before they are allowed to donate. Along with donating blood the Red Cross also uses volunteers to host blood drives, work at them, and transport the blood donations. More than forty percent of blood donations in the United States happen because of the Red Cross.

Today, the Red Cross continues doing the tasks it started. They have also added CPR/AED and HIV/AIDS training to help educate people. They also work with FEMA during natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina to provide disaster relief to victims. If you would like to be a part of the work the Red Cross does please go to to learn more.