Saturday, August 20, 2011

Humanitarians bring hope to the hopeless

They dig ditches, help the elderly, empower the poor to create their own wealth, teach the underprivileged, and show the world the true American spirit of friendship and camaraderie.

They are America’s 8,655 Peace Corps volunteers spreading goodwill in 139 countries. They deserve our support, our thanks, and our congratulations on World Humanitarian Day (Aug 19).

Over 200,000 Americans have served their country in the Peace Corps since its inception in 1961. While most are young people, 7% of the volunteers are over 50. My wife and I, in fact, are future PC volunteers. According to Peace Corps data, 37% of the goodwill ambassadors volunteer in the field of education, with 22% working on health/HIV/AIDS initiatives, 14% on business development, and 13% on environmental projects. I have witnessed their efforts firsthand (including organizing a youth baseball league in rural Moldova and teaching in isolated Uganda), and have been amazed by their enthusiasm and by the impact they have on the world.

These Peace Corps volunteers, of course, represent only a small percentage of the angels who are engaged in humanitarian efforts worldwide. As we commemorate World Humanitarian Day, spend a moment to reflect on how they make the world a better place. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it best when he wrote:

“On World Humanitarian Day, we honour these aid workers and thank them for their dedication. And we pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice – in Afghanistan, Haiti and beyond. Too many have died, or suffered their own loss, in the course of duty. We pledge to do all we can to ensure the world’s humanitarians are kept safe to do their essential work.

This is also a day to examine our own lives and consider what more we can do to help -- to reach out to people enduring conflict, disaster and hardship. Let those we honour today inspire us to start our own journey to make the world a better place and bring our human family more closely together.”

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