The American Red Cross’ International Humanitarian Law program empowers youth and young adults, ages 13-24, to learn about International Humanitarian Law – the body of law that governs armed conflict. Each year, outstanding young people who participate in the IHL program are selected to represent their region/division at the IHL annual Summit in Washington, D.C. This year the Texas Gulf Coast region will be represented by Emily Wang and Sara Khokar.

Sara Khokar is a 16-year-old junior who first heard about the IHL program through a friend at her high school. In August 2021, she joined the program and helped open an American Red Cross Club at her school.

“I developed a passion for disaster relief and international humanitarian law through the IHL program and the Red Cross,” said, Red Cross youth volunteer, Sara Khokar.

After setting up her account in the Red Cross Volunteer Connections portal, she soon was surprised at the variety of opportunities to help. Her club set up a Refugee Drive to collect supplies for refugees arriving in Houston from Afghanistan. Her group partnered with Houston Welcomes Refugees and placed collection boxes in mosques, churches, and other public places.

“I loved seeing the student body come together and do various volunteer opportunities for the American Red Cross, it was a beautiful and unifying experience,” said Sara.

Sara related how her parents and grandparents took her to different volunteer organizations to help when she was very young. According to Sara, the experience helped her see a different side of the world and exposed her to new things. Now she wants to help others.

“What you’re exposed to at a young age is important,” said Sara.

When asked about what motivated her to start a Red Cross Club at school, Sara explained that help is needed everywhere. We have all been through a ‘disaster’ with Covid and Hurricane Harvey. She added that the Red Cross Club gives students a chance to help and, in the process, gain volunteer experience.

Sara said that, in addition to being very eye-opening, her experience with the IHL program had also been a lot of fun. When they set up a Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban movie night hundreds of people came out to learn about different connections and teachings of IHL through Harry Potter.

The biggest event for her group this past year was the Cup War simulation to understand the preservation of cultural property. Sara said that the event was held at various schools including middle and elementary schools. The idea was to set up teams of 10 who were given plastic cups and told to build a building. While doing so the club members gave a presentation about the importance of protecting cultural properties with UNESCO’s Blue Shield designation. During the presentation and as the participants worked on their buildings, they were told to ask for this shield from the organizers of the event. If a team did not pay attention and failed to request the shield, that team’s building would be knocked down at the end of the event.

At the Summit Sara expects to engage in lively discussions with her peers and experts who will facilitate the event.

“Similarities and differences of opinion can result in productive discussions which leads to unification,” said Sara.

She added that she thought it was her emphasis on the goal towards unification that helped her get chosen this year.