Voices from the Field: Ayman Gharaibeh, UNHCR Representative in Yemen
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Unfulfilled by his previous job – working for a bank in Amman, Jordan – and with the recklessness of youth on his side, then-25-year-old Ayman took a one-month UNHCR contract in Kuwait in the aftermath of an invasion.
Deployed to the middle of the desert in his first humanitarian role, Ayman was unsure what he was getting himself into. He reflects how he was motivated to see the world in a different light – to see the reality rather than what is portrayed in often-sensational headlines or outdated history books. He hoped to combine his interest in understanding the world with service to humanity.
“You begin to question yourself- what are we actually doing here? But that completely changes when you are closer to the people and see you’re actually making a difference in their lives,” Ayman says.
“We often say that what humanitarianism and humanitarians are doing is saving lives. But I don’t think that gives credit to the people we are serving. Refugees have survived because they know how to survive – people are saved by their own resilience, that’s how Yemen survives today.”
At 50 years old, Ayman has now been with UNHCR for 25 years. He struggles to recall his most memorable day. “The best days are when I come face-to-face with the people that this organization serves,” he explains. “That’s what really gives you the motivation – you are dealing with people who are not giving up, so why should you give up?”
Ayman recognizes the importance of restoring hope in those who have lost everything.
“Parents want to look into their kids’ eyes and see some hope in the future,” he says. “This is the complex part of my job, and that’s the uniqueness of the UNHCR mandate, because you’re dealing with people.”