Our region’s Int. Srvs. classes, discussions now offered online

To see more regional stories and other content related to the Red Cross response to the coronavirus pandemic, please see this blog post.

Like many other American Red Cross activities, the classes and discussion groups that have been hosted in our region by our International Services program are a service that has been re-engineered because of COVID-19 social-distancing requirements.

“When it became clear that this pandemic would be with us for a while, we started to rethink the way we were making our classes and other educational opportunities available,” says Go Funai, Director of the Service to the Armed Forces and International Services programs for the Northern California Coastal Region (NCCR).

So, beginning late last month, with an introductory course that is part of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) series, Funai’s International Services (IS) team has begun to deliver its educational offerings virtually.

“Our classes have traditionally been taught in person,” he says. “But that changed on April 29 when team members Jill Hofmann and Julianna Jaynes organized the IHL’s Even War Has Rules class.”

The feedback was immediately positive. “When they promoted the first class, it was full right away,” Funai says. “So we had to set up a second session that day; in all, about 50 people participated in the two classes.”

Currently, attendance in the new virtual IHL classes is limited to current members of the Red Cross family. But Funai expects that restriction to ease once there is more organizational comfort around the delivery of virtual classes.

Meanwhile, the regional IS team has made plans to offer the second class in the series, Born on the Battlefield, to Red Crossers. (See a listing of all upcoming IS virtual offerings, below.)

In addition to the International Red Cross Movement coursework, Funai’s IS team has also converted a once-a-month in-person “discussion” session on international topics, which had been taking place in the Red Cross office located in Carmel, into more frequent virtual sessions.

The first such session took place last Thursday, May 14, and featured Central Coast Chapter Board Member Laura Fullem-Chavis. A registered nurse, Fullem-Chavis led a discussion titled “COVID-19: A Deeper Understanding of This Pandemic.”

“It was a terrific discussion, with almost 50 people participating virtually,” Funai says.

Because they are official Red Cross courses, feedback is already built into the IHL courses, he says. “But we added some questions about the virtual experience just to gauge how it worked for our students.”

Again, the feedback was positive.

“We’re getting better at delivering our educational opportunities this way,” he says. “But I don’t think virtual coursework — when the pandemic is behind us — is going to completely replace what we have always offered in person,” Funai says.

For example, it’s been a bit challenging to have group discussions, especially in the larger sessions. “In some of our recent classes, it has seemed to work better when we direct people to ask questions or make comments in the platform’s chat box.”

But it’s also true that the virtual classes have provided instructors and attendees with some scheduling and attendance flexibility, he says. “So, in the long run, we may learn some things about how to best deliver our coursework through our current experience.”

For now, though, offering IS courses virtually just makes sense. “Given our current environment, it’s important that we do our best to make this work for the many people who are interested in learning about and becoming part of the Red Cross’ International Services program.”


Here are the upcoming IS virtual courses currently scheduled in our region:

•  Thursday, May 21; 5 to 6:30 p.m. — “COVID-19: A Personal Story and the Lessons from this Pandemic.” Featuring Ali Goldoust, Professor and Dean of the Undergraduate Multi Language School at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. Professor Goldoust has been working at DLIFLC for the past 17 years. Originally from Iran, he has been living in the United States for the past 19 years. His wife is from South Korea and his brother from Italy, giving him connections with two countries hit hard by COVID-19. (Special thanks to Kimberly Osborne, Board Member, American Red Cross of the Central Coast Chapter, for connecting the IS team with Professor Goldoust.)

•  Wednesday, June 3; 3 to 4:30 p.m. —
 International Humanitarian Law: “Even War Has Rules.” 
IHL is a set of rules that restrict the means and methods of warfare while protecting civilians, prisoners of war, and wounded soldiers. The four Geneva Conventions, which form the foundation of IHL, are the only treaties in the world that have been ratified by all nations. The instructors for this session are NCCR volunteers Hawley Rising and Mo Ghandehari.

•  Wednesday, June 17; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. — International Humanitarian Law: “Born on the Battlefield.”
 This longer, intermediate-level IHL course will be taught by NCCR volunteers Liz and Larry Dietz.

•  Thursday, June 18; 2 to 3:30 p.m. — “International Humanitarian Law and Autonomous Weapons.” Featuring Randall Bagwell, Senior Director, International Services – U.S. Programs, American Red Cross. The featured speaker will lead a discussion of how IHL impacts the world and how autonomous weapons are changing its landscape.

•  Thursday, July 16; 2 to 3:30 p.m. — “International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Updates with Jono Anzalone.”
 Anzalone serves as the Head of Disaster and Crisis, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for the Americas and Caribbean region, based in Panama.

For more information and/or to register for any of these classes, please email Go Funai at go.funai@redcross.org.