Touching People’s Lives: The Joy and Challenge of Being a Humanitarian

Touching People’s Lives: The Joy and Challenge of Being a Humanitarian

Nihan Barutçu,  Social Worker for IOM in Turkey 


As a social worker in the field of humanitarian aid, I would say that it is not just a profession but a way of life that demands dedication. Having a career in humanitarian aid was not a choice for me, I just found myself in it.  

When you see injustice around yourself, if you feel moved by the sight of a hungry child, women who are victims of violence or the sight of a father who lost his child at sea while escaping war, you somehow find yourself in this field. Once you hear the sound of a bomb from the other side of the border or taking action when you see something wrong and at times even saving lives.  

My aim is to work until disadvantaged groups have reached the same level as the other groups. By taking small steps, I am able to see change for good in society. It's a very satisfying feeling, binding you to life and allowing you to continue working with greater energy and motivation. 

The biggest challenge is witnessing suffering and hearing stories that break your heart. While we see terrible things on television or read about them in the newspaper; it is hard and frustrating to see it with your own eyes as it unfolds before you. 

Despite these challenges, I strive to be someone who makes children smile, who is able to sincerely communicate with them through conversations and games and to be a reliable confidant who my fellow women can express themselves with. I define myself as a person who is full of energy and someone that lives to do meaningful things, create awareness and connect with people.

While we, as women, continue to work with as much effort and aptitude as men, our work is often considered to reflect our maternal and compassionate instinct. I refute this stereotypical outlook and believe that our work is also based on ethics, human values and ambition. Humanity has no gender and chromosome!  

Many people in society feel that women cannot work in crisis and disaster areas, but I would like them to open their eyes to women humanitarians like me who work at borders subjected to shelling and visit camps that are threatened by dispute and war. Yes, I am a woman and I am strong, but more than that I am a human being. I believe that being human itself is a very powerful cause to help others. 

Humanitarian aid must be holistic and without the support of people in the community we cannot create a significant impact in society. It is the duty and responsibility of all of us to alleviate the pain of people. Whether professional or as a volunteer, humanitarian workers are touching people’s lives, saving and changing them. I want people to see us not as targets but people with the aim to help others. I also want them to know that it’s not easy for us to progress or achieve what we do without their support.