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On World Humanitarian Day, celebrating the unsung heroes

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Oxfam engineer Farah Al-Basha stands in a partially constructed shower block that is currently being built at Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan. Photo: Anastasia Taylor-Lind/Oxfam
Oxfam engineer Farah Al-Basha stands in a partially constructed shower block that is currently being built at Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan. Photo: Anastasia Taylor-Lind/Oxfam

When you hear the word ”humanitarian” who comes to mind? Mother Theresa? Nelson Mandela? Gandhi? It’s usually big names like these that we remember and look up to as inspiration. But what about the aid workers whose names you don’t know?

Farah Al-Basha is one of those people who you have probably never heard of before, but whose hard work and dedication to humanitarian aid demands your attention. I first heard about her through Oxfam’s article back in April, and her powerful life-change resonated with me. We’re about the same age (she’s 27, I’m 26), and we’ve both made a switch from working at a private company to working for Oxfam–albeit in different capacities. While I’m working on spreading the word to our American audience from our headquarters in Boston, Farah is on the ground in Jordan, providing essential aid to the more than 100,000 Syrian refugees that now live in the Zaatari Refugee Camp. A former engineer who worked on military contracts and designed underground bunkers, she now dedicates her engineering skills to building toilet and shower blocks and installing water tanks.

“I wanted to help people here, to try to do something more for the community,” Farah says of her reasons for joining the effort.

Farah is unquestionably a role model and an inspiration. It’s people like her who offer a real-world example of how we can direct our energy and skills towards humanitarian causes. And she admits that it’s been an overwhelming experience: “It’s been a life-changing experience for me,” says Al-Basha. “Helping to change people’s lives is not an easy thing to do.”

Now, I’m not advocating for all of us to quit our day jobs, move halfway across the world, and work in refugee camps. We can all be humanitarians in our own way. Spread the word about emergencies that you care about, even if they’re not in the mainstream news. Use your voice to raise awareness, share what matters to you on Facebook and Twitter, sign petitions to influential decision-makers, and if you can, donate to humanitarian relief efforts, like the Syrian Refugee Crisis Fund.

Today, on World Humanitarian Day, I think we should honor the unsung heroes like Farah, because the world needs more people like her.

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