Humanitarianism in action

Activities encouraging learners to consider how humanitarianism can be put into action.

Humanitarian aid distribution in Homs, Syria.
Lesson plan, video
Humanitarianism and the Red Cross

Humanity is one of the fundamental principles underpinning the work of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

This lesson places learners in the position of decision makers, enabling them to explore the choices surrounding helping people in need.

Role-play, real-life examples from Syria and opportunities for self-reflection are all used to develop learning and deepen engagement with the concept of humanitarianism.

Please note: This resource contains some sensitive content that could be upsetting and/or challenging. Please consider the experiences and backgrounds that your group of young people may have when using this content. Ensure there is an option to opt out and/or speak to someone, or signpost to someone for support if needed.


Learning objectives

Learners will:

  • explore the term “humanity”
  • consider dilemmas and consequences that might be faced in situations where a humanitarian response is needed
  • identify social pressures and barriers to action around helping others
  • reflect on what motivates people to act to help others.


Resource overview

1. Starter: A humanitarian vision

Discuss how learners might apply the principle of humanitarianism to their own lives and how this links with the Movement’s definition of humanity.

2. Raising awareness: Everyday humanitarian dilemmas

A critical thinking activity which explores a fictional dilemma from a range of perspectives.

3. Real-life scenarios: Humanitarian action in Syria

Explore case studies based on the work of the Movement in Syria. This includes personal stories and discussion-based activities.

4. Thinking it through: Exploring personal motivations

A reflective, practical activity using “humanitarian motivations” cards.

5. Closing reflections: Sharing thoughts on humanitarianism

Close with learners sharing a quiet moment to reflect on the session.

Video: Panorama – The ICRC in action worldwide

Please note: due to the nature of the content in this film, it may only be suitable for the upper age range.


These resources were written by Rob Bowden and Rosie Wilson of Lifeworlds Learning and published in October 2015.

The photo shows humanitarian aid distribution in Homs, Syria (© Ibrahim Malla/SARC).