World Humanitarian Day – Walking in Her Shoes

“There are no roads where we work,” Irene Nyambura, World Concern’s One Village Transformed coordinator in South Sudan explains. Over the years, Irene has gotten used to going beyond the end of the road to reach the communities where she works.

Irene enjoys building relationships with members of the communities where she works in South Sudan.

Born and raised in Kenya, Irene has been working with extremely remote communities in South Sudan for a couple of years now. On a typical day, the One Village Transformed coordinator visits at least half a dozen remote villages and homes where she meets with community leaders and families and oversees training sessions in each village.

“Seeing leaders plan for their own communities and sharing this with us is very fulfilling,” she says. The mother of two especially enjoys seeing and hearing stories of progress among the people she works with. “For instance, the first time we visited Kuanya village, there was no road to get to the village. The community was happy to receive us and promised to make it easier for us to access them. Shortly after, they cleared off thickets for us, now our vehicle can drive in.”

In light of recent tensions within the young, volatile nation of South Sudan, however, Irene’s job can be even more challenging. In February, Wau town, where World Concern’s office is located, was under fire. “The gunfire was heavy. We could hear it very close to our office. I didn’t think we would make it,” she says.

Even as a humanitarian worker, Irene is not shielded from the day-to-day challenges facing ordinary citizens. “There are times when I cannot get food. Sometimes there is not enough water and I have to stay thirsty…There are few or no toilets in the village…” she says adding that long drives on rough terrain are back breaking.

Villagers in Magai Village, located in rural South Sudan, love working with Irene.

“Working in South Sudan has been a humbling experience. It has taught me to see things differently and stop taking some things for granted, especially God,” explains Irene. The people she meets daily tell her that they wouldn’t be alive had it not been for God’s grace. Seeing what they have to go through, she knows it’s true.

We’re proud to spotlight Irene on this #WorldHumanitarianDay

Today, on World Humanitarian Day, we recognize Irene Nyambura, a humble servant to God and to the communities she works with in South Sudan. Thank you, Irene for all that you do to help train, grow and equip communities with the tools that they need to thrive and succeed for generations to come.

 

 

Introducing Bernard: Husband, Father, Humanitarian

Today is World Humanitarian Day—a day to remember those who have lost their lives in humanitarian service and celebrate the spirit of humanitarian work around the world.  We’re honored to introduce you today to some of the remarkable people who work for World Concern.  Head to our Facebook page and check out our World Humanitarian Day album to meet a few of these people.  Continue reading here to meet Bernard, one of our #HumanitarianHeroes in Haiti.

Bernard Rozier is a husband and father of two who lives in the city of Les Cayes in southern Haiti.  Since 2004 he has worked with World Concern as the Hope to Kids (HTK) Program Manager.  This program began in 1998 and provides students with a goat and husbandry training which allows them to earn an income and pay for school.

Bernard HTK Program Supervisor (L) & Duclona(R)_Gilgeau Haiti_6-13
Bernard (left), with Pierre Duclona, the World Concern Regional Coordinator for southern Haiti.

Bernard is a soft spoken person but is well respected and loved by the children he serves.  He would be the first person to tell you that he is not superhuman but simply a man who loves God and wants to do his work well each day.  Grab a cup of coffee and sit down with us as we ask Bernard a bit more about his life and work:

Why did you choose to work in this field?

“First of all, as there is a lack of jobs in Haiti people do not always have a choice in choosing which field to work in, but I chose to work in this field as I always have a passion to work with kids and a passion for animals.  There is a custom in Haiti where people are afraid of animals like frogs, snakes, and spiders.   So animals create fear in the Haitian people and sometimes they kill them.   So as I work with the kids I teach them not to kill those animals because they all eat insects and therefore they help us to fight insects without using insecticides, which can be harmful if used on our vegetables.  I also teach them the importance of the goat milk as it is a good source a protein for kids.  So this field enables me to help educate the kids and I hope this will have a positive result in the future.”

What impact does the Hope to Kids project have on children in Haiti?

“The program teaches the children how to make a living with their work.  The care the children provide the goat will allow them to one day sell the offspring and make some income to meet their daily expenses and contribute with their parents to school expenses like buying books, uniform, pens, and other materials.  The goat we provide the students with is dependent upon them so the children will act as parents toward the goat, feeding them, leading them to water, and sheltering them.”

Goats Deworm Belts - Les Cayes_247

What motivates you to come to work each day?

“What motivates me to come to work each day is the hope that I bring for the kids by the goat I provide them and the joy I bring to them by playing with them.  When I visit the kids to give the goats shots and the goat cries, all the children are laughing so even the goat clinic brings joy to the kids too.”

Watching games

Do you have a hobby or activity you like doing outside of work?

“The activity I like to do outside of work is playing with kids and making them happy even for awhile. When some kids see me, they laugh so some of them call me ‘toy.’  I also sometimes act as a mentor for kids.”

What do you hope for the country of Haiti?

“What I hope for the country of Haiti is that all people, including the peasants, would have a source of revenue to respond to their daily needs.”4 - Goats, deworm, Les Cayes_065

Saved to Serve People

Jean Berlin knows that his life was spared during the Haiti earthquake in 2010 for a reason. And that reason is to serve others. In honor of World Humanitarian Day, we wanted to share his amazing story of a life dedicated to serving people.

A math and physics teacher, Jean Berlin was teaching in a 5th floor university classroom in Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010. Just before the earthquake hit, he got what he describes as “a bad feeling inside.”

“I felt something would happen,” he recalled.

He left the building, excusing himself from his students and explaining that he wasn’t feeling well.

Haiti earthquake - collapsed building
A building in Port-au-Prince that collapsed during the January 2010 earthquake.

Moments later, when the shaking started, Berlin was confused. He’d never experienced an earthquake before. He closed his eyes, and when he opened them, the school was gone. The building had collapsed and everyone inside was dead.

“I said, ‘Oh my God what happened?’” Berlin ran home to check on his two sisters. Thankfully, both had survived the earthquake.

He’ll never forget that day when his city went dark. “It was a very, very bad time in Haiti,” he said. “After I wondered, ‘God why didn’t you give me the chance to ask my friends to come out too?’”

Berlin still has no answer as to why so many died that day, but he survived. All he knows is that he is here for a reason.

“Jesus saved me to serve people,” he says with confidence.

Although Berlin loved teaching, he now dedicates his life to helping protect vulnerable families and communities in Haiti from future disasters, like hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes.  As a project manager for World Concern’s Disaster Risk Reduction program in Port-de-Paix, Berlin teaches people safe building practices, disaster preparedness, and how to keep their families safe in a disaster. He says he never wants to see such massive, preventable loss of life again.

Jean Berlin
Jean Berlin survived the Haiti earthquake. He believes it was so that he could serve others as a humanitarian and help prevent future disasters.

“If something happens in Port-de-Paix one day, now we won’t have as many victims,” he explains. “This is one way I can serve people.”

Berlin’s humanitarian service is his life mission, and the mission of World Concern.

“I can say that it is very, very important to serve people because, as Christians, we have to do what Jesus has done. Because Jesus himself, he served people too. As a Christian organization, it is our very special mission to serve people.”

We at World Concern humbly salute Jean Berlin as a dedicated humanitarian who is fulfilling his calling by serving others and protecting human life.

Listen to Jean Berlin say, in his own words, why he believes his life was spared so that he could help protect others.

[vimeo 58994100]

 

Honoring humanitarian workers

Richard Johannessen surrounded by children in Bangladesh.
Richard Johannessen surrounded by children in rural Bangladesh.

For people like Richard Johannessen, the work day never really ends. Whether he’s responding to emails late into the night from his office in Bangkok, or visiting a remote village in Laos, figuring out how to improve access to clean water, his responsibilities weigh heavily on him every day. After all, people’s lives depend on him.

Rick is World Concern’s Asia Area Director, and his work is much more than a job. After a successful career in international business, Richard returned to a calling he’s had since he was young: serving the poor through humanitarian work.

Aug. 19 is World Humanitarian Day, founded in 2009 to honor and celebrate people like Richard who serve day in and day out in difficult places and often dangerous situations for the good of others.

But who are humanitarian workers? The answer is that they, their skills, and their backgrounds, are as diverse as the countries where they work. They respond to disasters and solve complex problems. They save lives and meet the most basic human needs: food, water, shelter, and medical care. Long term, they lead vulnerable people to a place where they have a self-sustaining, healthy future.

World Concern is blessed to have staff members who feel called to this line of work. Some have personally experienced tragedy, loss, war and famine and want to help end suffering for others.

Christon Domond distributes water after earthquake.
Christon Domond distributes bottled water after the earthquake in Haiti.

Christon Domond is one of those people. Christon has worked with World Concern in his homeland of Haiti for more than 20 years, despite offers for more prestigious and lucrative positions in the U.S. He grew up in Haiti in a family with nine children, and has chosen to serve those in his country who are close to his heart. After the earthquake, Christon immediately checked on the safety of his staff, then pulled everyone together and coordinated their response.

Selina Prem Kumar serves as a lifeline to vulnerable people as country director in war-torn Sri Lanka. As Selina helps victims of civil war, she also helps bridge peace between the Tamil and Sinhalese peoples—something she is uniquely qualified to do as a Tamil married to a Sinhalese man. In 2009 Selina helped evacuate 30,000 war-affected civilians who needed medical care and safe shelter. Today, she’s helping people rebuild their lives and heal the deep wounds caused by war.

Selina Prem Kumar with an injured child.
Selina Prem Kumar holds an injured child in Sri Lanka.

According to the UN, the danger for humanitarian workers is very real and it is increasing. Just this month, ten aid workers were murdered in Afghanistan—lined up and executed. Among those killed were Thomas Grams, a dentist from Colorado who gave up his private practice to do relief work, Karen Woo, a surgeon who left a comfortable life in London to pregnant mothers in remote regions, and Cheryl Beckett, the daughter of a pastor and student at Indiana Wesleyan University who had been working as a translator for female patients in Afghanistan since 2005. They sacrificed everything to serve the most desperate people.

World Concern President David Eller says it all goes back to the calling. “When it doesn’t make sense—when I have trouble explaining to my mother why I’m getting on a plane to Haiti right after an earthquake, all I can tell her is that this is the right thing, and I know in my heart of hearts that this is what God has given me to do. This is what God has given the organization to do. You’ll hear that from all the people throughout World Concern: This is what I’m called to do.”