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Introduction to youth and volunteers

PRCS is a voluntary service pioneer: it was the first Palestinian organization in both Palestine and the diaspora to embody and adopt the concept of volunteering since its establishment in 1968. Voluntary service constitutes part of the local heritage in Palestine and has always been practiced by its population. A good example is “help” provided during the olive, wheat and sesame harvesting seasons, as well as during the construction of house roofs and other collective activities which characterize the Palestinian society.

Voluntary service is a key pillar of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. It builds solidarity, helps face challenges collectively, nurtures entrepreneurship and strengthens ties with local communities, institutions and the surrounding environment. It is one of the seven Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement adopted in 1965, i.e. humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality.

As the Palestinian society developed, so did the concept of “help”, which is a synonym of voluntary or cooperative service. Palestinian university students have to complete community service hours in order to graduate given the social importance of volunteering and the major role it plays in ensuring development and prosperity.

The unstable local situation led to a deep transformation in voluntary service which is no longer limited to the provision of care and services. It has become a means to change and develop society and a gauge of social progress.

Considered as a national, patriotic, social, humanitarian and religious duty, volunteering has always been hindered by Israeli occupation authorities. Palestinians, however, adamantly insisted on providing help and assistance to those in need free of charge. Volunteers played a major humanitarian role during Israeli aggressions, a role which was quite palpable during the war on Lebanon in 1982 and the 1st and 2nd Intifadas when PRCS worked hard to heal the wounds and alleviate the suffering of Palestinians.

PRCS itself came into being thanks to an initiative by several Palestinian doctors, mainly late Dr. Fathi Arafat, to create a medical clinic in Marka (Jordan) which became the nucleus for PRCS. The Society then grew and spread the concept of voluntary service in Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine. Tens of PRCS staff and volunteers, from both Palestine and abroad, fell in the line of duty, mainly the Egyptian doctor AbdelRahman Odeh who fell following an Israeli airstrike on Irbed in Jordan in 1969.

PRCS is supported by a team comprising more than 9500 volunteers from the oPt, in addition to hundreds of volunteers from Lebanon, Syria and many other parts of the world.

Voluntary service at PRCS was crowned with the creation of a department devoted to volunteering. The department works in harmony with other PRCS bodies as well as with local and international partners to provide the best services possible. As youths and volunteers became the Society’s main focus, the department was restructured to cater to their needs. It endeavors to promote volunteering, especially among young people, with a view to building their capacities, achieving social development, and enhancing belief in and dissemination of PRCS goals and principles. This is done with the help of tens of youth and volunteers committees in the oPt and the diaspora.

PRCS believes that young people can play a major role in society. Hence, it provides them with ample space where they can thrive, work, receive recognition, and enjoy respect and appreciation for their help and support. PRCS also provides volunteers with equal opportunities to unleash their humanitarian potential and build their psychosocial skills as citizens who care about their homeland and work to develop their society.