To mark World Humanitarian Day, Humanitarian Communications Trainee Corantine Groccia, writes about the things that inspired her to become a humanitarian worker, and of her experiences so far.
It’s a classic job interview question: why would you like to work in this field? And it wasn’t a surprise when this was one of the things I got asked when I applied for a traineeship with Save the Children.
The truth is, I haven’t always wanted to be a humanitarian worker. Actually, I’m just discovering the field.
At university, we would always spot the guys that looked like hippies and identify them as the humanitarian students. We imagined them to be full of dreams about changing the world, and that they’d soon be unemployed.
That wasn’t for me. I was happy to volunteer in my spare time, but I wanted a “real” job, thank you very much.
Yet a few months ago I went to Egypt, volunteering as a legal adviser for refugees. I sat there, listening to people telling me dreadful stories of how they’d fled their countries, leaving everything behind. How they’d lost their loved ones to incomprehensible violence and cruelty. How they’d suffered torture, trafficking, and sexual abuse. How they were struggling to make ends meet in a country and culture foreign to them, often experiencing racism and abuse.
I heard about life in places that seldom made the headlines: Eritrea, the Nuba Mountains and Darfur in Sudan.
I soon realised that meeting with them day after day, recording their stories for others to hear, offering an attentive ear, and doing my utmost to come up with solutions, was going to be the most challenging, exciting, rewarding job I could ever dream of.
So I turned to the humanitarian field. And so far, I haven’t met any utopian daydreamers.
I have met talented people, outraged by injustice and human suffering, who have chosen to put their skills at the service of those who need it the most.
I have met refugees who took it upon themselves to help their communities, as translators, psychosocial or health workers.
I have seen community leaders helping the most vulnerable among their communities: survivors of sexual violence, youths and children separated from their families, victims of human trafficking.
I have seen people brave enough to go to places no-one in their right mind would go, miles away from their homes, to deliver aid where it is needed.
Most importantly, I have met people who were able to look at those they serve in all their humanity and dignity.
I am now part of a traineeship programme with Save the Children, where I am gaining theoretical and practical knowledge of how to work effectively in an emergency setting.
Yet in a crisis a lot of the work is done by members of the affected communities. The dedication and hard work of the national staff is essential to our action and it’s important that they have access to the same learning and training opportunities as we do in the UK.
That’s why the programme I am part of also includes humanitarian workers from the Middle East and East Africa. It’s also why the recently set up Humanitarian Leadership Academy is working to enable locals to gain expertise in their field and make sure they are well prepared to respond to an emergency.
In a few months, I will be deployed overseas as part of my training. I don’t know yet where I will be – only that it will most probably be tough and challenging. But what I do know is that I am going to be working with devoted colleagues to assist resilient, inspiring people.