World Humanitarian Day 2015

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Humanitarian Response Network of Canada

World Humanitarian Day 2015 

To celebrate World Humanitarian Day HRN wants you to be inspired by Canadian Humanitarians who work with Canadian aid agencies here and overseas to provide emergency relief to people affected by natural and conflict-related disasters in all corners of the world. Read all the profiles here.

The work these humanitarians do is as varied as their backgrounds – from Hasnat Ahsan (Manotic ON) a program manager with Oxfam International most recently working in Nigeria and Vanuatu to Dr. Simon Bryant (Canmore AB) who works in the central Mediterranean, on a search-and-rescue boat doing post-rescue medical care for people taken off migrant boats and John Best (North Bay ON) a field worker with Canadian Red Cross who helped to construct an Ebola Treatment Centre in Sierra Leone.

Despite the different jobs and backgrounds our humanitarians have similar motivations and get the most joy from their work when they interact directly with the people affected by disasters. “On my best days”, notes Ronny Elfassy (Burlington ON), “I get to monitor IDRF field projects that are making a difference in people’s lives” and from Kevin Dunbar of CARE (Ottawa ON), “I get to work with talented, brave and inspirational staff dedicated to improving their countries”.  More unusually, Prosper Ndumuraro (Toronto ON)  a Project Coordinator from MSF recounts the joy he  gets from engaging with the patients MSF serves and the people who live in the countries where MSF works. “One of my favourite moments recently occurred when one of our local staff members introduced me to the young son she had named “Prosper”, in the hope that he will grow up to have the same humane and humanitarian qualities — like me!”

All note that work in the field can be tough.  Katie Corker (Hudson, Quebec) works in Gonaïves, Haiti with Action Against Hunger.  “The thing I miss most about Canada when I’m in the field is being with family and close friends and enjoying the beautiful nature that our country has to offer”.  And Jean-Baptiste (Montreal QC) from Oxfam Quebec notes that on his worst days “I must cope with the feeling of overwhelming powerlessness in the face of situations where the resources seem so limited in comparison to the needs and to the frustration of being limited in my work by political barriers, greed and love of power”. 

Also meet Osama Damo (from Save the Children) who moved to Toronto last year as a refugee from Gaza and works for Save the Children, “When I was in my last field trip [in Iraq], which took place after moving to Canada, I missed every single detail in my Canadian life, and I appreciated, much more than what I’m already doing, the amount of peace, stability and joy that Canada gives me and all the nation. I missed having a calm relaxing weekend, I even missed the subway route I have every day between my home and work!! I missed Canada so much, and I felt how proudly belonged I am to Canada despite the fact that it wasn’t such a long time since I moved here.”

These humanitarians and many, many more make huge sacrifices and take enormous risks to help provide emergency relief.  On World Humanitarian Day, at least for a moment, let’s look beyond our borders with love, empathy and understanding and be inspired!!


Ann Witteveen

Organization:  Oxfam Canada (Humanitarian Manger) and Co-chair of HRN

I am from:  Guelph ON

On my best days:  I am humbled in the presence of women and men bravely coping with situations most Canadians couldn’t imagine

On my worst:  my soul crumbles at the sheer scale and scope of humanitarian crises

The thing I miss most about Canada when I’m in the field is: feeling safe and (of course) my family (all of them, even my new naughty puppy dog and irascible cats, and my… but I digress….)

The world needs more......hope.

2015 Theme: Inspiring the World's Humanity -

World Humanitarian Day is a time to recognize those who face danger and adversity in order to help others. The day was designated by the General Assembly to coincide with the anniversary of the 2003 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq.

World Humanitarian Day is also an opportunity to celebrate the spirit that inspires humanitarian work around the globe.