When I think about what got me started in my career as a humanitarian worker, it’s the moment of clarity standing in front of the haunting photos of prisoners in Tuol Sleng on my birthday. The prickles in the back of my neck as the blank stares of the dead look though me, mixed with a strangely misplaced sense of frustration almost three decades after the fact. How could the world have just stood by as millions of Cambodians were massacred by the Khmer Rouge?
That sense of injustice disillusioned me straight through my first year of law school. Facing a long stretch of corporate work or slow moving human rights law, I took the deep breath I wanted and returned to Phnom Penh a year later to become a legal intern in the Center for Social Development and a researcher for the Orphans Class in the Khmer Rouge Tribunals. I came back to the Philippines that summer with more awareness of the atrocities of the world, a sense of responsibility that I felt owed to people in countries I’ve never had a connection to, and the certainty that I wasn’t in the path I wanted to take. Five years ago, with no real sense of what I wanted to do, I accidentally started my career as a humanitarian worker.
Once again, very grateful that Rappler published this piece on their website today. You can read it here. Also very happy it's inspiring people on their mood meter!
Every year, August 19 is celebrated as World Humanitarian Day, dedicated to aid workers who have lost their lives in the line of duty. Last year, World Humanitarian Day focused on asking people what the world needs more of. This year, it turns the spotlight beyond solutions and looks at the people who work at solving them.
In 2014, we celebrate August 19 by looking at humanitarian heroes, people from different kinds of backgrounds who work at the same goal - saving lives and providing the basics of life to the most vulnerable from disasters and conflict. These humanitarians are heroes in every sense of the word. In many cases, there are almost no similarities between them - different ages, races, genders, religions, beliefs. But though they come from all different parts of the world, with the same belief that those affected by disaster and conflict are entitled to the basics of life - food, water, shelter, protection, all in providing the most vulnerable with a life of dignity, taken away by disaster and conflict situations.
Abbi is a petite human, blogger, amateur photographer, permanent humanitarian, avid traveller, culture addict, giant bookworm and impossible foodie.