By Maude Froberg, IFRC
Photo by Chinese Red Cross Foundation and Maude Froberg (volunteer interviewed)

Yunnan students have jumped at the chance to join Volunteers on Wheels, a new scheme bringing humanitarian pedal power to some of the world’s most isolated communities.

The initiative by the Red Cross Society of China and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) aims to equip one million volunteers with bicycles in China and beyond.

It will not only put volunteers on the move, but will also enhance their visibility and access to people in need. The design itself carries the spirit of volunteers as they will assist in first aid, road safety promotion, community disaster preparedness and prevention, and social inclusion.

Engagement in the project in Yunnan is being led by branches of the Red Cross Society of China present at Kunming University of Medicine, Kunming University of Science and Technology, University of Yunnan, Yunnan University of Minorities, and Yunnan Open University.

One of the students who signed up to join the humanitarian ride with Volunteers on Wheels is Zhang Yidan, who said: “I believe that the Red Cross, both nationally and internationally, is most helpful to people displaced, disabled and injured.

“It’s my honor to be a Red Cross volunteer. We can go a long way with these bicycles,” she added.

The Volunteers on Wheels project will pay particular attention to the issue of road safety, with the aim of encouraging behavioral change. Road accidents kill 1.2 million people globally, and China alone experiences more than 250,000 fatalities due to road accidents.

In the weekend of 2-3 December, the project was also launched in Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi Province. Here, the bicycle-riding volunteers took to the stage to introduce the project before taking part in a wider celebration of the work of the Red Cross Society of China’s volunteers.

Volunteers on Wheels was devised by the Red Cross Society of China and IFRC with support from the Norwegian Red Cross and the Chinese government. The project is now being expanded to other National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world in line with IFRC’s One Billion Coalition for Resilience, an initiative designed to build the capacity of communities to bounce back better and withstand future shocks.