World Humanitarian Day is TODAY

graphic by Jayne Cravens representing volunteersHere we are again: it’s World Humanitarian Day, August 19, an annual day, designated by the UN General Assembly, to recognize those who help others regarding humanitarian issues – addressing human welfare, help people facing a natural or man-made disaster, helping in post-conflict situations, helping improve the lives of marginalized groups, etc. It’s a day to honor of aid workers who have lost their lives in the line of duty, as well as to celebrate the lifesaving work that humanitarians carry out around the world every day, often in difficult and dangerous circumstances, where others cannot or do not want to go.

I encourage you to blog about the work of aid and development workers today, and to use a Facebook status update and a Tweet today to celebrate humanitarian workers as well. #humanitarianheroes is the official tag of the day, though I think a lot of folks are reluctant to use it when talking about themselves as humanitarians. Also, be sure to like the official Facebook page: World Humanitarian Day.

Recently, while hiking in a state park in Utah, I got into a conversation with another visitor. When she found out I had worked in Afghanistan in 2007 (because of my t-shirt), she said, “Thank you for your service.” Since I have heard this comment by people from the USA only for people in the military, I said, “Oh, ma’am, I wasn’t in the military. I was an aid worker.” And she said, “You should still be thanked for your service.”

While there’s nothing at all extraordinary about my work in Afghanistan, Egypt, Germany, or Ukraine, there are some amazing humanitarian workers out there. They spend years away from their families and risk their lives to do their work. Some are injured. Many are harmed long-term, emotionally and mentally, by the stress of their work. Some are kidnapped. Some are killed. I knew one of the people killed in Iraq on this day in 2003, in the bombing that targeted the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq created just 5 days earlier; we’d sat in a meeting together in Bonn when he was in a different role in a different country, and when he heard me tell about the UN’s Online Volunteering service, he stopped me from speaking, called his assistant back in the country where he was serving, and said, “Look into this web site; we’re going to be doing a lot with it soon.”

These people not only help with immediate help during and after disasters, providing food, heath care, housing, etc. – that’s often the easy part. Humanitarians also help local people rebuild their governments. They help local people engage in activities to bring about peace and reconciliation – something that is never, ever easy. They do the stuff that isn’t easy to take a photo of or put on a poster – but that’s every bit as important as any other aspect of humanitarian aid.

Thank you, colleagues. Thank you, humanitarians. Thank you for your service.

How to Get a Job with the United Nations or Other International Humanitarian or Development Organization.

How to Make a Difference Internationally/Globally/in Another Country Without Going Abroad.

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