The American Red Cross as a Social Welfare Program


The American Red Cross “is a humanitarian organization led by volunteers and guided by its Congressional Charter and the Fundamental Principals of the International Red Cross Movement” (American Red Cross, 2001, p. 1). American Red Cross is described by the federal charter as a non-profit making organization that is exempted from paying tax. This organization is guided by seven principles which include “impartiality, humanity, independence, universality, voluntary service, unity and neutrality” (American Red Cross, 2001, p. 2). Its mission is to principally provide assistance to people in devastating situations, in addition to acting in response, organizing, and averting emergencies. Besides, the mission gives guidance towards the provision of assistance to victims of tragedies. This paper explores the operations and effectiveness of the American Red Cross as a social welfare program.


American Red Cross was started by Clara Barton. Clara first got the idea of the Red Cross when she attended casualties from Biltmore Riots where she was working. After starting American Red Cross, she led it for 23 years which followed her resignation in 1904. The newly formed American Red Cross had its key maiden operation following a massive break up of fires in Michigan; where they provided relief services. On June 6th, 1900, the organization was accorded a congressional charter. This charter gave its mandate to offer assistance to the injured in wars; manage relief to victims of disasters when there is no war; and facilitate communication between the U.S military and the family members. In addition, this charter gave protection to the American Red Cross emblem (Gilbo, 1987).

The year 1905 was a landmark year as the American Red Cross received a fresh charter from the congress, which operates up to date. The organization experienced internal struggles in the 1990s despite being congressionally chartered. Mostly, its problems emanated from shoddy bookkeeping practices and lack of proper organizational management by its leader-Clara.

During World War I, American Red Cross expanded fundamentally as many chapters were incorporated. During this particular time, many nurses were sent abroad to help war victims. The organization, in addition, played a key role during World War II. It is also during this time that American Red Cross started clubs such as Rainbow Corner and commenced roles such as blood donation to assist war-ravaged victims (Gilbo, 1987).

Its operations

American Red Cross has played a grand role in offering relief and support to victims of wars and disasters among other forms of tragedies. Among the critical services it offers includes nursing, safety, and health services to both home and foreign countries. Apparently, American Red Cross has been very instrumental in providing moral and medical services to the American armed forces. In addition, it offers food and aid particularly to war and disaster-ravaged victims. The American Red Cross has really uplifted the lives of many Americans, something that its founder confirms when she said “It is not in its past glories or benefits of the Red Cross lie, but in the possibilities, it has created for the future’’ (Gilbo, 1987, p. 45)

The American Red Cross is strongly intertwined with the philanthropic sector. It realizes its goals courtesy of volunteers from across the world. Red Cross goes beyond political, religious, race, and social status to provide indiscriminative services to humanity. Therefore, American Red Cross society essentially promotes “friendship, mutual understanding, cooperation, and lasting peace among the humanity” (Dubowski, 1991, p. 56).

Effectiveness of Red Cross

The criteria under which the effectiveness of the American Red Cross can be determined is copious and complex. The psychological response of the beneficiaries prior to a particular disaster or hazard awareness of the beneficiaries can be a good assessment of the effectiveness of such a social program. American Red Cross society has effectively assisted people across the world. This has particularly been achieved through humanitarian emergencies, response to disasters, and provision of health conditions to people experiencing life-threatening status. Community-based programs and global initiatives have been very instrumental in making the roles of the American Red Cross a success (Dubowski, 1991).

American Red Cross has improved the lives of many people through disaster preparedness and response, global health, dissemination of international humanitarian law, and large-scale humanitarian relief. Generally, this has been achieved through effective partnership and collaboration with the Red Crescent movement, the international Red Cross, and a couple of other international development and relief agencies. Among the key achievements is empowerment and mobilization of communities, the building of local capacities, and the establishment of partnerships. The tsunami Recovery Program is one of the largest American Red Cross programs in the current times, which has remarkably improved the health of the community besides assisting the disaster-ravaged community rebuilds their livelihoods (Dubowski, 1991).

In conclusion, the American Red Cross society as a social program has successfully and effectively played its role. Most remarkable is the manner in which it has helped disaster-ravaged victims rebuild their lives and achieve health status. All these have been enhanced by well-coordinated programs and initiatives. Overall, the American red cross has fundamentally touched the lives of many victims of disasters and other forms of catastrophes across the world.


  1. American Red Cross. (2009).
  2. Dubowski, C. (1991). Clara Barton: Healing the Wounds. New Jersey: Silver Burdett Press.
  3. Gilbo, P.F. (1987). The American Red Cross: The First Century. New York: Harper and Row Publishers.
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