World Humanitarian Day: Celebrating our dedicated team

August 12, 2017

Share this story:
  • linkedin
  • google
  • Photo: Sean Sheridan for Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps’ brave and compassionate team members get up every day to work the front lines of poverty, conflict and disaster in more than 40 countries around the world—including many of the most dangerous places to be an aid worker.

Whether responding to the crisis in Syria, wading through swamps in South Sudan, or working in remote communities in Mali, Jordan and Central African Republic, they are committed to helping people triumph over adversity and build a better, stronger world—no matter what it takes.

Our incredible team is 5,000 strong, and this World Humanitarian Day, August 19, we honor the courage and dedication of every single one of them, as well as that of humanitarian workers around the world who strive every day to save lives and transform communities.

Below, meet just a few of our global team members who’ve devoted their lives to helping people build a stronger tomorrow. This day is for them—and for everyone around the world giving of themselves to be a force for positive change. We’re so proud to share today with you.

GRACE, NIGERIA

Photo: Corinna Robbins/Mercy Corps

Tell us a bit about yourself and your role with Mercy Corps.

I joined Mercy Corps in Nigeria on October 21, 2014 and I was only the third member of staff in northeast Nigeria. Before joining Mercy Corps, I worked with other international organizations supporting orphans and vulnerable children.

Gombe was the first office in the northeast of Nigeria and our work responds to the needs of people who have been displaced by the conflict, as well as host communities. We now have 31 staff in the northeast working on our humanitarian programs helping some of the 2.2 million people affected by the current conflict.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Every day for me looks like a new day. I spend most of my time in the field. I am from Gombe originally and this makes me happy.

From Monday to Friday, we work nine hours every day—often more—and the most you will spend in the office is about two hours. The rest of the time I am interacting with communities, helping with distributions. I keep touching lives every day, putting smiles on the faces of people. When you find yourself in the community, putting a smile on the face of someone who hasn’t eaten in two days, there is nowhere else you want to be.

How we helped Zulyatu, 16, feed her family ▸

What motivates you?

If you don’t have passion for this work, you will not stay long because of the stress. It can be difficult. You are responding to people’s needs every day—people who have been through such a tough, tough time. They have seen many things but, despite that, our view is that people should always be standing, not begging. They should feel empowered no matter what they have been through. You need to have a passion for that, otherwise you won’t make it.

And finally, what do you do in your spare time?

I read a lot. I’m the indoor type really, despite all my work outside in communities! I read about humanitarian work; I actually have a Dropbox full of books and articles that I pick from. I live with my sister, and I also like spending time with her and my friends on the weekend.

MARYAM, LEBANON

Tell us a bit about yourself and your role with Mercy Corps.

I joined Mercy Corps in Lebanon two and a half years ago. I started working on a program working to alleviate and reconcile issues between host and [Syrian] refugee communities. Mercy Corps supports municipalities with in-kind donations to provide critically needed resources.

I now work as a youth program manager, managing four youth community centers in Lebanon. [The centers] offer psychosocial support and non-formal education to young people, to build their resilience and help them develop positive coping mechanisms to respond to the shocks and stresses faced. I had previously worked with young people before joining Mercy Corps and was excited to go back to this type of programming.

What does a typical day look like for you?

One thing is for sure: no day is the same! While one may plan, you can expect that on a large program like ours, issues will arise. I need to be able to troubleshoot and adapt to ensure that all team members and partners are adequately supported and all issues are reconciled in a timely and effective manner.

I manage a team of 12 people in varying sectors: education, psychologists, monitoring and evaluation, and field staff. I usually balance my week between the office and field. This helps me to remain grounded and connected to the dynamics on the ground, while also taking the time to plan, coordinate and manage from the office.

What motivates you?

Social justice. I am a fervent believer in human rights and equality, and I am driven by humanitarian principles. Our youth have so much untapped potential and are so much more deserving than the social, economic and political issues they inherited.

While we may not be able to significantly impact the larger structural and societal battles young people may face, we can improve their access to resources and opportunities to reach their fullest potential, nurture their intellectual curiosity and emotional growth, provide them with protection from exploitation and abuse, and empower them to better navigate life by making informed decisions.

Read more: A second chance at a future for Syria's youth ▸

What do you do in your spare time?

Much of my downtime is spent recentering and rejuvenating myself, and I do that best by the sea. I enjoy spending time with loved ones and having good long conversations and laughs. I also FaceTime with family in the United States often, especially my niece and nephews.

RONALD, UGANDA

Tell us a bit about yourself and your role with Mercy Corps.

I live in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, and have been working with Mercy Corps since February 2016 as the country coordinator for the Agri-Fin Mobile project. What we do is help smallholder farmers increase the money they can make from farming by helping them access loans and use mobile banking services. These resources are available in the country—but not always easily obtainable to the most vulnerable.

As basic mobile phones are increasingly common across Uganda, we also help smallholder farmers increase their rates of production by disseminating information about weather, markets and farming tips through text and voice messages.

How technology transforms lives around the world ▸

What does a typical day look like for you?

There is no typical day! I think this is a great thing, although it can be challenging having to be so flexible.

One morning I might be working with mobile app developers to build the mobile tools which the smallholder farmers use, another morning I’ll be in the field, meeting with the farmers to understand their needs. Other days, I’ll be meeting with government institutions and private sector startups to make sure our activities can be scaled and sustained when the project finishes.

As with all jobs, there is a certain amount of basic admin, which is not the most exciting part, but it’s necessary.

What motivates you?

I love seeing the value that I can add to our work by the support we provide to the smallholder farmers. By reducing their levels of poverty through better practices and financial inclusion, there is a positive domino effect on their family’s education, health and general wellbeing.

And finally, what do you do in your spare time?

With this job, I don’t have much spare time. But when I get the chance to relax, I like to read and go hiking in the mountains. In Uganda we have some of the highest mountains in Africa, like in the Rwenzori, where there is a glacier at the top!

But what I enjoy most are animals: I like to volunteer at the Uganda Wildlife Education Center as an animal keeper. How else would I have the opportunity to look after a baby elephant called Charles!?

VIMBAYI, SOUTH SUDAN

Tell us a bit about yourself and your role with Mercy Corps.

I am a program manager for Mercy Corps, based in Bentiu, which is in Unity State in South Sudan. I specialize in water, sanitation and hygiene promotion and help Mercy Corps in providing services to people inside and outside of the Bentiu Protection of Civilians (PoC) camp.

Because of the ongoing war in South Sudan, more than 120,000 people have sought refuge inside the PoC, and many more need our help outside it too.

I studied environmental health, specializing in sanitation and hygiene promotion, and I’ve been working in emergency response in this field for the last 10 years, including in Kenya, Ghana, South Sudan and Zimbabwe, which is my home country.

I am a mother of four girls, ages 17,13 ,10 and 7, and they stay with my husband, who is a technician with the Air Force of Zimbabwe.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Every day is unpredictable in this emergency context.

What you need to know about the South Sudan crisis ▸

Right now I am focusing more on water supply and construction of sanitation facilities to the residents of the PoC, so my day depends on whether the operations and maintenance of the water distribution system is on track.

As there is no electricity, all our systems are run by generator power. We often joke that the generators run our lives. These need to be maintained daily and we need to be wary of them breaking down. If they do, this stops the water supply.

This risk is increased during the hot season, which we are in now, when the temperatures regularly reach over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). This is when people generally need more water to drink, and other sources of water that they may have used for washing clothes, for example, will have dried up. I also spend a lot of time consulting with communities about their needs and how they think we can improve our services to them.

What motivates you?

I first became involved in emergency response during the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe. There is something about emergency response that speaks to me because, when people are in crisis, you can use your skills to help them right there and then—you can have an immediate impact.

What motivates me particularly is getting to hard-to-reach places. Recently, we traveled to Jazeera to conduct an assessment of what was needed in the area. In Jazeera we had to walk seven hours to and from to reach the villages where we had to rehabilitate boreholes. South Sudan is a swampland, so we had to pass by rivers that were almost my height. When we arrived, the communities couldn’t believe that we made it to them; they thought that no one would help them. This is what keeps me going.

What do you do in your spare time to relax and cope with the stress of working in emergency response?

I keep myself busy. I’m studying for my master’s in public health via distance learning from the University of Roehampton, England. I’m involved in the Christian community in the Bentiu PoC and I attend bible study and we sing weekly.

When I go home for breaks, if my children are off school we will go straight on holiday for a few days so we can have time to enjoy each other’s company. Although it is very hard being away from them, the first two years were the worst, the older ones are beginning to understand why I do the work I do, and they are proud of me.

SUPPORT OUR TEAM’S IMPORTANT WORK

In more than 40 countries around the world, our dedicated team members work every day to help people survive crisis, find hope for the future and build better lives for themselves and their families. When disasters strike or conflict erupts, they are there to provide immediate relief — and they stay long after to help communities recover and rebuild.

In emergencies and recovery, this work is only possible because of caring individuals like you. Your support helps our teams get on the ground quickly to provide lifesaving relief. Give now to our Global Emergency Response Fund to help us reach even more people in need during and after emergencies.