We Are Humanitarians

August 19 is just around the corner, Humanitarian Day, and for a country that celebrates a minimum of twenty-eight (Yes, 28! excluding local observances) holidays  a year, it will probably go unnoticed. But, for thousands of aid workers out there, this day is worth celebrating.

While lazing about in my favorite coffee shop in Tacloban City, I decided to violate the personal spaces of other caffeine-induced strangers. Armed with a promise of borrowing a maximum of three  minutes of their time, I asked each one a very simple question – “What is the first thing that comes into your mind when you encounter the word HUMANITARIAN?” And they say: HELP. RELIEF. FOR THE PEOPLE. ALLEVIATE SUFFERING. SERVICE. KINDNESS. AID. WORKERS. GIVING. LOVE.

we are humanitarians

For months, I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of thousands of aid workers in Leyte and Samar. I watched them trek miles of barely recognizable roads to reach communities in remote areas, provision suffering victims with relief goods, carry dead bodies and sadly burying them in mass graves, provide counseling and psycho-social support to survivors, do medical missions, listen to chapters of heartbreaking stories of people who survived the tragedy, build back homes, help recover livelihood by finding alternative means, scurry from one province to another to help people in dire need of assistance, coordinate with other organizations and offices because tasks can only be fully accomplished if everybody functioned as one team.

I saw how places devastated by super typhoon Haiyan have been rebuilt. They are yet to be restored to their former glories, but ‘life’ is finally back and this is worth celebrating, these people are worth celebrating. Them and million other humanitarians around the globe who have dedicated their lives to providing aid without distinction in the face of suffering or abuse on grounds of gender, sexual orientation, tribe, caste, religion, or nationality (which I will say, the world desperately needs more of).

Happy Humanitarian Day!

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