Frontline Stories

Love Humanitarian Works

By: Cecil B Laguardia (Communicator, World Vision)

From the Philippines’ war in Mindanao and the massive Quezon floods to the Asia Boxing Day tsunami and the Horn of Africa food crisis. Then from the Philippines’ strongest storm, Haiyan, to the displacement crisis in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and – most recently – Nepal earthquake. I could say I have covered some of World Vision’s most challenging emergency work. As a communicator, these deployments have brought me to the grips of dread and have shown me indescribable sadness.

My 14-year experience has taught me lessons that shaped me as a communicator, a mother, a humanitarian and a human being. I have sat at the frontline of humanity’s pain and suffering yet have experienced amazing hope, despite the seeming futility.

My experience might pale in comparison to some of World Vision’s seasoned aid workers who have shuffled non-stop from one disaster to another, often working during or immediately after a disaster struck, but the requirement in each of us is the same – adapt to the need and the context, work hard, rise up to the tough conditions and deal with the emotional consequences later. There is no denying there are emotional consequences. The pain stays in your memory forever. One cannot go to an emergency like an 8-5 job. There are sacrifices you live with for a lifetime. 

As a communicator, I am lucky to be able to put my experiences into words, stories and video. I get to express the pain and ache I hear from people, so others will understand their suffering and act. My words though are often drowned by a world that has become tired of relentless news and horror stories. I believe people – rather than being indifferent – are too swamped to know where to direct their care. Despite these challenges, my work continues and I learn every day how to keep improving.

Top of the list is the importance of working with the locals and understanding the context. Talk to people, read, connect, forget biases and adapt. You cannot come in like a know-it-all cowboy (even if you have decades of emergency experience behind you) and do your thing.

Secondly, remember everything is not about you. Forget credits. You came to help. You are a humanitarian and a storyteller. It is never about who did the job but how you did it together – and well. Sometimes you get spotlighted – just remind yourself you’re the messenger, not the main character.

Humanitarian work is evolving quickly and with angles we haven’t seen before. Stronger typhoons than ever. The biggest influx of refugees. Massive earthquakes. Disasters are developing beyond our imagination. No matter how small our contribution is, we are in the business of saving lives, and this requires the highest degree of capacity and endurance put together.

Last but not least – love your work. It is a privilege not everyone gets. By loving what you do, you spread hope which is often the one thing that matters most for people to move on, pick up the pieces and live their lives again.

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