Every August 19, World Humanitarian Day celebrates the countless individuals who face adversity and danger to help others across the globe. In the week leading up to World Humanitarian Day 2012, it seems only fitting to feature these wonderful individuals who are part of the CARE team.
Earlier this week you got to know Jessie Thomson, today meet Robyn Baron!
Robyn Baron is an Emergency Response Program Manager for CARE Canada. She is a specialist in gender equality and gender based violence in emergencies, helping to ensure that women, men, girls and boys are supported equally based on each group’s unique needs and that survivors of violence have access to the services they need to heal and move forward. She has worked in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Chad, Somalia, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Samoa, the Dominican Republic and Canada.
Can you share a little about your educational background?
I have a Bachelors in Psychology, Women’s Studies and Development as well as a post graduate diploma in International Management focused on Latin America. However, I believe that my real education is the one I received overseas with the amazing colleagues and community members I’ve worked with. It was this education that taught me how to be a field agent, how to work with community members, how to implement analyses, how to run workshops, how to listen to what communities want, how to talk to donors, how to do advocacy work, what human rights are and how to ensure those rights are met. This was my real school.
What inspired you to become a humanitarian aid worker?
I come from a community where family and friends are often related to survivors of conflict and, thanks to international intervention, were able to move forward, heal and provide a better future for their children and grandchildren. I have always felt grateful for this and perhaps it’s karma, but I kind of feel it’s my obligation to do the same for others.
I also firmly believe that we have two choices in life – we can either accept the way the world is and just live in it, or we can try to change what we don’t like and don’t agree with. The latter choice is the right choice for me.
What are your most memorable experiences in your career?
There have been many moments that stand out, especially those moments where I witness someone figuring out that they are worth something – that they have rights and can claim those rights and demand that others respect them.
I recall a Ministry of Health worker in the Congo who told me that he finally realized that women can participate in local politics and that it was a good thing. There was also the time a Haitian youth told me that she didn’t care what anyone said, she was going to be a radio producer and make sure to tell other youth in the country that they had a right to education, to live free from violence and that adults have to listen to them because they are people too.
There was the Columbian woman who participated in a literacy program and was thrilled that she was able to write her child’s name for the first time and state to the child’s teacher “This is my child.” There was the elderly Samoan man who was grateful to a women’s organization for providing support after the tsunami and teaching him how to cook so that for the first time since his wife’s death he could take care of himself.
I remember the Congolese girl who had recently escaped captivity and was thrilled to learn to crochet and earn an income from what she made – enough to allow her to go home to her parent’s village and help support them as well. There was the Chadian staff member who, after two years, finally spoke in a room full of men with a voice above a whisper and told us she had learned that she had a right to her opinion and was going to state it.
I have witnessed what feels like a million moments like that. No matter what else I do or where else I go, whether I’m helping provide food, medical aid or anything else, I also get to be part of an amazing process where people find their confidence, learn to trust themselves, work together, build stronger communities and a better future – no matter what it takes.