Friday, August 24, 2012

What makes a humanitarian?

Last Sunday was World Humanitarian Day; this day was created in memory of those who died at the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq on August 19, 2003, killing 22 people. All day Sunday, I read news articles, blogs and face book postings about aid workers and the important part they play. It got me thinking what classifies a humanitarian? Is it those who put their life on the line every day? Is it the people we see in the news working in war torn countries? Or is the person who volunteers at the local nursing home each week? What makes a humanitarian?

I have met numerous ‘humanitarians’, the people working for large NGOS in the field, I have met local staff working for a great cause, and I have brought numerous volunteers to work as humanitarians on the ground. What makes them different? Nothing...all these people have one thing in common; they all work for those in need.

Together in Hope has brought many volunteer groups to the Philippines and El Salvador, and through Youth Release to Ethiopia. Each of these volunteers has worked and lived in the local community, they have lived without proper sanitary conditions and they have put their health at risk, but none of this matters. When we work in the Philippines, El Salvador and Ethiopia, our problems do not exist, when you see the children’s smiling faces and the mother’s grateful smiles it all goes away, nothing else matters. 

Do humanitarians deserve an international day of recognition? Do they deserve to have the world stop and appreciate them for 24hours? Without a doubt, these are the people who go to the places you don’t want to, these are the people who do the things you don’t want to. Let’s stand up and give them our appreciation, because without them the world would be a very different place.

See what our volunteers have to say:
Volunteering and working in Ethiopia was an experience that will stay with me forever. During my time in Dire Dawa I was responsible for teaching the older group of children along with another volunteer. We spent each day teaching them elementary studies in English, Mathematics, Geography, and many other areas, followed by exciting activities such as sports and arts. Spending time within this community and working and living with the children is such a gratifying experience, and although it can be hard work sometimes, the response from the community and ability to witness the changes that are being made on a daily basis makes it very rewarding. The opportunities that are being provided by Youth Release to this community in Ethiopia continually increase the populations' ability to improve the world around them, and experience the possibility of a better life.