Ordinary people, extraordinary feats

August 19, 2014

Reading Time: 3 minutes

As we read this, there are millions of people in different corners of the world who are unsure if they will wake up alive in the morning due to their inhabitancy in conflict-ridden regions. There are people who brace themselves every morning to face another day of poverty or wonder if they will be able to afford medicine for their children.

As we read this, there are millions of people in different corners of the world who are unsure if they will wake up alive in the morning due to their inhabitancy in conflict-ridden regions. There are people who brace themselves every morning to face another day of poverty or wonder if they will be able to afford medicine for their children.

PicMonkey-Collage-webSo what is World Humanitarian Day? On 19 August 2003, twenty-two aid workers were killed in a bombing at the UN headquarters in Baghdad. The World Humanitarian Day is observed to pay respect to these fallen heroes and those who have lost their lives in humanitarian service, and to celebrate the spirit that inspired humanitarian work around the world.

“Every year on August 19th, we mark World Humanitarian Day in honour of aid workers, who have lost their lives in the line of duty. We commemorate their sacrifice and reaffirm our commitment to 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.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

 When humanity seems to slide on the verge of extinction, a few people’s actions make us think twice. Amidst darkness, it gives us hope. Witnessing a selfless act of helping someone restores our faith in humanity. Today on this World Humanitarian Day, we take a look at the many unsung heroes who overcome huge obstacles every day to make lives better. One such individual is Mayom Biar Atem (35), a BRAC staff from South Sudan, who, through a courageous act, saved the life of a Bangladeshi BRAC staff working in Africa.

Mayom saved his colleague Mahbub from the deadly conflict that broke out in the country last year. Mayom was on leave in his village when words of conflict reached him, and he left for the city right away to save his family. He then remembered that Mahbub was residing in the conflict-ridden region too, and being the only foreigner in the area, his chance of survival was questionable. Mayom managed to move his family to a safer place, but in the process of transferring Mahbub from his office, he was attacked and got shot in his leg. Mayom braved through the rescue mission and it is because of him that Mahbub can now be with his family – healthy and very much alive. Mayom’s heroic act was recognised and he received the BRAC Values award this year.

You don’t need to be a humanitarian aid worker to help someone in need; you just need to be committed to make a difference. Every day, seemingly ordinary people work relentlessly to give the unfortunate a chance to survival and bring an extraordinary change in other people’s lives by motivating them to be resilient and overcome the challenges that life has thrown at them. Their faces remain unseen and stories go untold, these people – with their immense contribution in promoting and providing basic education and healthcare, alleviating poverty, and raising awareness against gender-based violence and child marriage – are no less than heroes. BRAC’s development interventions are made possible through the efforts of these heroes. They are our frontline community health workers and health promoters, our pre-primary and primary school teachers, our barefoot lawyers and the members of our village organisations.

“Poverty is a degrading and dehumanising condition and the defeat of poverty is thus a humanitarian act.”

– Sir Fazle Hasan Abed

With 97,000 frontline community health promoters and 10,000 frontline community health workers, we provide door-to-door healthcare services to people, from urban slums to hard-to-reach, rural areas. Over 43,000 BRAC schoolteachers not only provide basic education to underprivileged children or children who are dropouts from the formal education system, but also raise awareness on various issues, including gender equality, gender-based violence, child marriage, and dowry. Our 6,226 barefoot lawyers act as one-woman mobile legal services clinics for the poor.

Through their unwavering determination with which they work every day to meet their communities’ basic necessities, these people have given new meaning to the lives of others. People, who are struggling with health issues, malnutrition, lack of access to education and legal services, now have the knowledge and platform to combat socioeconomic ails because of the efforts of the health promoters, teachers and barefoot lawyers. A humanitarian act is as much about taking small steps to achieve a long-run sustainable difference, as it is about taking a leap to save someone’s life. Today on this World Humanitarian Day, we extend our deepest gratitude towards these individuals.