Today on World Humanitarian Day we celebrate the contributions, honour the sacrifices and advocate for the safety of humanitarians. Maddison, 2020 Diana Award recipient, is a young humanitarian, health advocate and founder of her own social enterprise, ‘HUGS’. After recovering from heart surgery, she became determined to make a difference by improving quality of life for hospitalised children.
Today is World Humanitarian Day. It marks the anniversary of the August 19, 2003 bombing in Baghdad, where 22 people died, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello. The United Nations established this day to honour the sacrifices of all humanitarians and the passions of those who continue to serve their communities, locally and globally This day raises awareness and support for the people who risk, and sometimes lose their lives to help others. It focuses on those truly amazing people who continue to support and protect despite risk, conflict, extreme circumstances and insecurity.
So, what is a humanitarian? A humanitarian is someone who cares about other people. A person who sees suffering and wants to do something to change it. Humanitarian acts can be made on a large or small scale, in our own community or overseas. Diana, Princess of Wales is still considered to be one the most well-known humanitarians. She didn’t just accept the world around her for the way it was and she used her role in the public eye to help causes that many others overlooked.
Her passion for helping others saw her support a number of charities such as the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, advocating the rights of the homeless, supporting the disabled and ill children through Great Ormond Street Hospital, breaking down the stigma of the HIV/AIDS virus and many more.
I am passionate about being a steward for global childhood health as health is one of the main pillars of quality of life and human welfare. I fight for childhood accessibility rights, vaccines, medical attention in third world countries and access to appropriate procedures at home. I believe we need to give a voice to children and youth in their own healthcare journeys as they deserve the right to have their voices heard and their bodies taken care of.
I founded HUGS, a social enterprise dedicated to improving quality of life for children suffering from chronic or acute illness, injury, and mental health issues. Through my HUGS Talks, I talk to children in schools, youth groups, and at youth leadership conferences about finding their passion and using it to make a difference.
It’s important for me to help other young people realise that they can make a significant impact and share my experience to inspire them to take action. Through fundraising, education, and advocacy I have brought initiatives to improve quality of life for children in hospitals locally, raised funds for a mobile health clinic in Kenya, and have changed hospital protocols by delivering education sessions to hospital staff.
This year, it feels more important than ever to celebrate humanitarians and thank those who have committed their lives to helping others. The theme for World Humanitarian Day 2020 is #RealLifeHeros. It comes at a time where the COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented fears and hardships globally. We have all felt the effects at home with job losses, school closures, financial burdens, and both mental and physical health concerns.
However, the effects have been catastrophic internationally and have created challenges to humanitarian efforts abroad. COVID-19 has made the world’s most vulnerable, even more exposed. Those living in poverty, war zones, or without proper water and health care have been left defenseless. It has led to a spike in human rights abuses, an increase in domestic violence and left these regions without the resources and infrastructure to meet the needs of their people. Escalating these hardships is the fact that humanitarian aid is struggling to reach those in need due to population lockdowns, border restrictions and travel bans.
So, on this Humanitarian Day, we tell the stories of people who put on their masks and keep fighting for those who need help the most, despite the increased risks of COVID- 19.
There are many ways you can celebrate World Humanitarian Day and honour our real-life heroes:
1_Donate to a humanitarian organization. There are many local and international groups who would benefit from a donation of your time or money.
2_Write to your elected leaders. Tell them what you are passionate about and why. Explain what change you want to see. Effect policy change.
3_Spread awareness of important global crises on social media.
4_Pay tribute to frontline workers by sharing positive stories of their contributions, highlighting local heroes or international peacekeepers. Use the hashtag #reallifeheros.
5_Talk to children about the importance of being a global citizen, understanding world needs and the importance of giving back. Teach them that the humanitarian path recognises diversity and helps regardless of race, colour, creed, or gender.
6_Do humanitarian work in your own community. Volunteer, donate to the food bank, make masks for nurses, shop for an elderly neighbour, do a toy drive for the hospital – just get out there and make a difference. Remember a humanitarian is simply defined as “A person who seeks to reduce human suffering and promote human welfare.”
Most importantly, on this August 19, 2020, World Humanitarian Day, stop and say than you to all those humanitarians both local and global that are making an impact, big or small, in the well-being of someone else’s life.
We say thank you to those who run in when everyone else runs out. To people who risk their lives and make personal sacrifices to help others through crisis.
A thank you to those who hold our children’s hands when parents and communities fail.
A thank you to all the front-line workers who without thinking run into danger, into uncertainty and into emergencies.
Today, we salute you, our real-life heroes.