“Being a humanitarian means putting my talents towards the people who are affected by crisis, especially women and children who are the most vulnerable group,” American Red Cross staff member Shahriar Morshed Saad said.
Saad is one of many Red Crossers working around the globe being honored on August 19 — World Humanitarian Day.
Saad first started working with the Red Cross as a youth volunteer when he was 12 years old. After more than 15 years with the organization, he currently serves as an assistant officer working in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
While working in Bangladesh, Saad meets with refugees who tell of dangerous journeys — walking days on end to reach the border and losing touch with family members along the way. Since August 2017, more than one million people have fled Rakhine State, Myanmar to seek safety in Cox’s Bazar. Many arrived injured, malnourished and devastated.
Once in Bangladesh, these refugees crowd into camps on muddy hillsides and live in structures made of bamboo, plastic, cardboard and sometimes corrugated metal sheeting. Monsoon rains and dangerous cyclone seasons put migrants at risk of landslides, floods and destructive wind.
Saad works with fellow humanitarians to help refugees prepare for disasters which includes training them on first aid skills.
“This work is very important for Cox’s Bazar as the area is prone to cyclones, monsoons, floods and landslides. Red Cross is saving lives, which is the most important,” he said.
One refugee who makes Saad smile is Sofi Alam, pictured above at age 8 in this 2019 photograph. Migrants like Sofi don’t have access to formal education, but that hasn’t stopped him. Every day, Sofi attends English class at a nearby learning center.
In a place where hope can feel hard to come by, Saad says that Sofi is an inspiration. His wide smile, love of soccer and enthusiasm are all contagious. When he grows up, Sofi says that he wants to be a teacher.
“I want to give education to kids and communities who don’t have it.”
For Saad, this is one of many reasons he enjoys working as a humanitarian. “Out of many things, I learn resilience from the children in the camp like Sofi. Their life in the camp is full of struggle and hardships, still they are surviving with courage and positive attitude, they are always hopeful of a better future,” he concluded.
For more information about World Humanitarian Day, visit the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).