This Update focuses on stories. It delves into the experiences of people who are working and/or living primarily in humanitarian and development settings. Their written and video accounts are instructive and inspirational, revealing courageous people trying to make a difference in our needy world as forces for good.
Part One includes stories about personnel in the United Nations and Part Two includes stories about people in civil society. You will find many similarities between their experiences and those of member care workers--hence helpful applications and lessons. We finish with some reflections on the importance of "thinking critically and acting competently" as we work across sectors.
Warm greetings from Geneva,
Kelly and Michèle O’Donnell
Lessons from Humanitarian Trenches:
The United Nations
"We the peoples of the United Nations determined: to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom…"
Preamble, Charter of the United Nations, 1945
United Nations., Geneva http://www.tedxplacedesnations.ch/
Video: Voices from the Field. United Nations (August, 2014). 11 minutes of sobering and inspiring reflections by humanitarian workers, on location in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNBteN45J_E
--“What pushes me to act as a humanitarian?...It’s possible to go two days without eating. But if you have water, you can survive.”
--“Of course we feel homesick, we are away from our families. But this is the humanitarian world and we have to accept how it is.”
--“Why would anyone kill a child?”
--“All these little girls [sexually abused] that came to us. And I have my own girl… [But helping] is the greatest joy that I can have.”
Video: Attacks on Humanitarians Are Attacks on Humanity. Vincent Cochetel (11 December 2014). Vincent is Director of the Bureau for Europe at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He shares why humanitarians continue working in the face of danger and reflects on his own experiences in captivity, having been kidnapped near Chechnya in 1998. He believes no humanitarian worker—and the people they are protecting—should be forgotten. Watch the video-story here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1F5CsD2ekSA
--“When it happens to you there is no time for thinking, no time for praying. My brain went automatic, rewinding quickly the life I just left behind…Then a process of dehumanization started that day…317 days of captivity…23 hours and 45 minutes of darkness every day…”
Vincent’s talk is one of 11 United Nations Geneva TedxTalks (11 December 2014), primarily showcasing people who are helping people. Watch the video trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nh8OqGUdqcg All eleven speakers and their video stories are here: http://www.tedxplacedesnations.ch/all-speakers
Written and Video: UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)
--Behind the Statistics: Telling the Human Story (short written accounts from around the world) “Behind all the statements and statistics about refugees, asylum seekers, the internally displaced and the stateless are real people with harrowing tales of suffering and loss, as well as hope and ambition. UNHCR believes we must provide a platform for their voices and - when it does not risk their safety - to give a face to the millions of people of concern. Our staff around the world gather these human stories every day so that people living in peace and comfort can understand why the forcibly displaced and stateless need compassion and care. The best way to understand the suffering of others is to hear their stories of hardship, courage, struggle and perseverance.” Access the written accounts here: http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c24e.html
--Video Galleries: Moving Pictures (short video stories from around the world). “To give you a better idea of the daily struggle for survival that refugees face, as well as the kind of work UNHCR does in the field, we send out video crews to document our different operations around the world. Every refugee has a unique story of courage and determination and we hope that, through these videos, their voices can be heard in your homes and their needs better understood.” Access the video stories here: http://www.unhcr.org/pages/4ac9fdae6.html
Lessons from the Humanitarian Trenches:
Hope is like a path in the countryside.
Originally, there is nothing –
but as people walk this way again and again, a path appears.
Lu Xun, Chinese essayist, 1921
Book: A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity (2014) by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. “In their #1 New York Times best seller Half the Sky, husband-and-wife team Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn brought to light struggles faced by women and girls around the globe. A Path Appears is even more ambitious in scale: nothing less than a sweeping tapestry of people who are using research, evidence-based strategies, and brilliant ideas to make the world a better place….We see the compelling, inspiring truth of how real people have changed the world, resoundingly upending the view that one person can’t make a difference.” (from the book website) Access the book, the upcoming DVD documentary, and the film trailer here: http://apathappears.org/
--”These stories of real people struggling for survival and opportunity serve as a powerful reminder that poverty is complex and painful, but the call to action doesn’t need to be.” Bill and Melinda Gates, co-chairs of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
--“This book is a class act. Its insights and honesty touch me on the deepest of levels and inspire me to raise my game to help the poor.” Bill Hybels, founding pastor, Willow Creek Community Church
Booklet: Ground Realities: Voices of Humanitarian Aid Workers from the Frontlines (2014). Roel Cabulang and Mariam Mushtaq. Church World Service-Asia/Pacific (CWS-A/P) et al. This booklet is a collection of 19 short case stories followed by a brief summary of lessons learned and intermingled with in-country photos. Amazing! It “presents a collection of testimonies from aid workers in some of the most insecure and volatile environments in the world. The participants recount a broad array of security incidents, such as kidnappings, suicide bombings, mob violence, road ambushes, and point-blank range shootings. Their narrative provides valuable information on how organizations can manage security risks and streamline safety policies.” (p. 8) Access the booklet here: http://www.cwspa.org/download-document/327-voices-of-humanitarian-aid-workers-from-the-frontlines
--“In 2013, a humanitarian aid worker was injured, kidnapped, or killed every 26 hours. This staggering information, drawn from figures verified by the Aid Worker Security Database (AWSD), is a painful reminder of the continued onslaught of atrocities in the areas where humanitarianism is in action. In recent years, policies have been restructured and various initiatives have been implemented to mitigate the level of insecurity confronting humanitarian actors. Unfortunately, despite the heightened security policies, violence aimed directly or indirectly against aid workers remains pervasive. This only reaffirms the fact that humanitarian action is carried out in the most challenging of circumstances. Providing humanitarian assistance amid conflict has always been a dangerous and difficult endeavor; however, over the last decade aid worker casualties have tripled.2 Left unresolved, this escalating level of insecurity has a clearly damaging impact on the amount and quality of aid delivery to affected communities.” (p. 8)
Mega-Conference: World Humanitarian Summit, Istanbul 2016—connect and contribute to the consultative process leading to this huge gathering, initiated and organized by the United Nations but bringing together all types of humanitarian actors. More information here: https://www.worldhumanitariansummit.org/
Think critically and act competently
No hay tan buen tesoro como el bien hacer;
ni tan precioso oro, ni tan dulce placer.
Doing good is the greatest treasure;
better than gold, better than pleasure.
Sem Tom, 14th century Spain
This Update has allowed us to peer further into experiences and lessons from the humanitarian sector. The stories of people working in this vast sector are extremely relevant for the mission sector--and vice versa. There is much overlap both conceptually in the towers and practically in the trenches. That is why we continue to refer to the focus of member care as primarily being “mission/aid personnel and their sending organizations." We finish now with a short excerpt from the Introduction in our edited book, Global Member Care (volume two): Crossing Sectors for Serving Humanity (2013). It reminds us of the importance of crossing sectors well and of serving humanity well.
“Think critically and act competently. Crossing sectors is something to be done critically. Our learning and actions must be tempered by the legitimate concerns and dissent from both inside and outside the sectors. Just a few of the many examples of the areas to consider for good (ethical/competent) practice are: the involvement of the private sector (commercial/business) as it combines for-profit motives with humanitarian pursuits, the World Health Organization’s major influence on global health in view of the People’s Health Movement Global Health Watch reports and the growing calls by civil society to “democratize” health, global mental health from indigenous perspectives in addition to Western “indigenous” categories of thinking, the ongoing disparity in the equitable flow of resources between the Global South(s) and the Global North(s) in spite of calls to eradicate poverty, human “development” with due regard for sustainable environmental development, and various critiques about humanitarian aid in view of the ongoing status quo of the world’s “bottom billion.” " (p. xxiv)
More MCA Resources
Global Portal for Good Practice (website)
Reflections, Research, and Resources for Good Practice (weblog)
Global Mental Health: A Global Map for a Global Movement (website)
Global Integration: Connecting and Contributing (updates, materials, webinars)
Global Member Care: (volume one): The Pearls and Perils of Good Practice (2011)
Our latest book! Global Member Care (volume two): Crossing Sectors for Serving Humanity (November 2013) The e-book version is available on Amazon
Actively integrating our lives (connecting and contributing) with global realities
(skillfully addressing the major issues facing humanity and promoting well being)
in light of our core values (e.g., ethical imperatives, commitment to humanity, God’s glory).