The World Needs More Humanitarian Heroes

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Ruba, 23, with children from the Informal Settlement where she lives in Bekaa, Lebanon. Ruba is one of the thousands of humanitarian workers Save the Children is celebrating on 19 August. Photo: Ahmad Baroudi/Save the Children

Ruba, now 23, was a college student when Syria’s conflict began. After fighting reached her hometown and the local school was forced to shut, she determined to set up a makeshift school from her home. “All schools were closed; that was the worst weapon ever used against my people,” she says. Soon after she and some friends defied their own fears and reopened classes at the town’s school, leading classes from the relative safety of the basement. Even when escalating violence forced her family to flee to Lebanon, Ruba was adamant to continue supporting children. Although her family could hardly make ends themselves, Ruba opened a kindergarten and Child Friendly Space from their tent. Today, with support from Save the Children, she is able to provide children in her Informal Settlement with a safe place to play, learn and overcome their trauma.

The impact her CFS has had on children is immeasurable. “Their mothers started coming to me to tell me how much the children are improving; they told me many things like ‘my child stopped wetting his pants’, or  ‘before the classes they didn’t leave me for a second but now they go outside to play with the other kids’, and many other things,” says Ruba. “That was my biggest motivation; I decided that I would never turn my back on them … no matter how challenging it is.”

Against all odds, Ruba is proving that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. During periods of crisis, it is community-minded people like her who bring back a sense of normalcy to the most vulnerable, put smiles on children’s faces and provide life-saving support.

This year on World Humanitarian Day (WHD), Save the Children Lebanon is honouring its volunteers and staff by participating in a UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) campaign highlighting the service of humanitarian workers around the world. Our staff took photos of themselves holding signs encouraging more people to join the humanitarian cause. The full collection of photos can be viewed here.


Save the Children Lebanon staff hold signs encouraging a new generation of humanitarians ahead of World Humanitarian Day on 19 August. Photo: Ahmad Baroudi/Save the Children

Two Save the Children staff members were also filmed speaking about what humanitarian work meant to them. Some of the photos and videos will be included in a projection of testimonies from Lebanese humanitarian workers at a celebration on 19 August in Beirut, Lebanon hosted by OCHA and the Lebanese government.

WHD is celebrated annually on 19 August, in memory of the day in 2003 when 22 aid workers were killed in a bombing targeting the UN headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq. The day commemorates all those who have lost their lives in humanitarian service and celebrates the spirit that inspires humanitarian work. Sadly, the number of humanitarians who have been killed in service since 2003 has grown.

“Those children represent the future of our people,” says Ruba, explaining her motivation to serve Syria’s children. “Today there is a whole generation out of schools, they’ve forgotten how to write and read and of course some of them have never seen the inside of a school in their lives ... Without education there will be no true society, there will be no peace. If we don’t educate them someone else will, but they will teach them hatred and malice.”

*Name has been changed