More humanitarians are needed as the frequency and complexity of emergencies increase. Post-disaster development also requires experts in relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction. The random nature of such work means that many employees and consultants will be on short-term contracts.
Some people find it difficult to enter the humanitarian field; others will have to start searching for their next post almost as soon as they begin the current one. This book will help altruistic people enter humanitarian employment, and those who are already there to move on and upwards. To gain most from the ideas, you will need access to the Internet in order to explore and exploit the many web site addresses given.
One of the finest pleasures that comes from working as a humanitarian is meeting extraordinary and wonderful people who have devoted their lives to helping others. Here are three recent examples. The countries, characters and circumstances are true but the names of the people have been changed to spare their modest and humble sensitivities.
1. I first met Sean outside Kampala in Uganda at a conference centre. He was surrounded by about 50 children, some were blind, but they were well dressed and highly excited. He knew all their names and he was joking with everybody. His wife and a small group of volunteers from his church in the USA were taking the children on a picnic to Lake Victoria. The children had never had an experience like this before. He came to Uganda for a few months every year with his group to manage a social project. The team had recently constructed a well in a poor village about two hours drive from the capital. The villagers appealed to him to help many children who were from the streets or aid orphans. “We can hardly afford to feed ourselves and families, and we cannot take on these children”. Sean, his wife and friends took them all and constructed an orphanage with a special blind unit. Many were sick, some had no clothes; others did not even have names! They were given health care, clothed and fed. And named. Now they were bright and shiny and ready for their outing. (I should mention that Sean was 74 years old and diabetic. He was also confined to a wheel chair as he had lost the use of both legs).
2. George had a modest job as a driver for an international NGO in Sri Lanka. He was married but saddened by the lack of children. He was asked by a friend to care for two street children while trying to find homes for them. George and Mary kept the children, and as is so often the case after adoption, they later had two children of their own. Meanwhile the two street children had increased to six, then ten, then twenty and more! A Swedish Church adopted their cause and promised to help. A hostel was built on the small plot of land where George and Mary had their little home. The hostel was now occupied by 50 children including George and Mary’s own two. They lived together like brothers and sisters in a tight family ranging from 18 months to 18 years. I met them just after the oldest girl had passed her A-level examinations. The older ones helped the younger with chores and homework, George said goodnight to all of them, read the younger ones stories and Mary gave up her work to become ‘mother’ of her huge family.
This story has a sad ending. The local authority stepped in to demand that either all the boys or all the girls be given up and sent to an orphanage. “It is not right that boys and girls should be mixed up in this way”. George pointed out that many families have a mixture of boys and girls who live together. Mary, of sterner stuff, fought hard. The local authority had its own way and half the children were removed to a single-gender orphanage. You can imagine the tears.
3. The workshop was about “Caring for Disabled People”. It was held in Bangladesh in the extreme north and 50% of the participants were disabled physically or sensorily and 50% were “temporarily able” (as one disabled friend explained, because we start and finish life disabled!) The long journey from the south had been planned intentionally by Sarah so that all could experience the problems of travelling in difficult terrain – toilet stops, loading and unloading wheel chairs, mobility management etc. On arrival the ‘temporarily able’ shared rooms with a disabled friend so that the caring experience could also be shared. Some of the participants were from other countries: Nemka was from Nepal and totally blind. One evening session was disrupted by a power cut and the projector failed. Nemka heard the groan but had no idea of the cause which was explained to him with concerns about how we were going to get to dinner and then to our rooms. Nemka laughed loudly. Suddenly he was the only able person there. He knew his way around every corridor and led us, one by one, to our rooms. When he took me to mine he asked me if I would be able to manage! Back in Nepal Nemka started his own NGO for blind people. All his employees (with one sighted person to read external mail) are blind. He has found employment for about 100 and supported five blind people to complete university Master’s courses!
We can change the world. Little by little; step by step. We may not cause a global revolution but we can leave it a better place than we found it. Maybe we just touch a few hearts as we go along.