by Ogonna Kanu
I was in a dilemma. Here I was, passionate about making the world a better place, of course, in my own little way and not being able to explain to my niece what being humanitarian meant.
“So who is a humanitarian?” she quipped. Maybe it was my lack of self-confidence that made me break out in barely visible sweat. Maybe that was also what made me imagine a smirk on that five year old’s face. ‘’Well..er..’’ I began before I was saved by her mother’s interjection. ‘’Time for bed, young lady!’’
Issie’s question got me thinking hard. Who really is a humanitarian? People who dedicate themselves to making life a little more bearable for others, particularly those plagued by misfortune, are typically called humanitarians. They lend their voices in the fight or mission to curb violence, abuse, poverty, disease, hunger, discrimination, injustice, persecution, oppression and any other reprehensible act. Humanitarians are open to lending their skills and knowledge to causes in every nook and cranny of the globe and with the advent of technology, they may do so from the comfort of their homes!
The beauty of the humanitarian field is that the key criteria for getting a leg in is simply being human. Degrees are good, networking is good, but being human trumps them all. I like to call this ‘’the human factor’’. Only human beings can empathize and every human being can! Empathy is the main ingredient of humanitarianism. Empathy propels human beings into action. It is this empathy that leads us to give and it is in this giving that we make other people’s lives better and our societies sane.
Can we imagine a world where no one does anything for another? Is that even possible? I like to think being humanitarian comes natural for you and me. Some people, though, are braver and more determined in this quest to touch lives. They leave all that is familiar and launch out into the unknown for weeks and years; they learn new languages, new cultures just so as to be able to give of themselves to strangers who may never really regard them warmly as friends. Resolute in their goal to bring the plight of the marginalized to the attention of the international community, they campaign and advocate for justice and for change. They are at the forefront of projects and initiatives that strategize on how to provide unique solutions to problems in diverse communities. They are almost always at the mercy of terrorists, wars and other natural and man-made disasters, but still, they do what they do wholeheartedly.
What has made them more ‘’human’’ than other humans? I have asked myself this question severally and have always met my own silence intertwined with a deep awe. In my opinion, these are the ones that deserve our admiration and applause; and the ones we should emulate. And if we emulate them? The universe guarantees us that ripples of our kindness will reach much further than we thought and outlive us.
So the next time my niece asks what makes someone a humanitarian, I have my answer ready for her! I will confidently tell her that to be a humanitarian, you don’t have to be extraordinary. You just have to be a human being who sees and feels the pain of others – and do your own bit to make them smile, even if only for a while.