Passion for Service: Filipina Humanitarians blazing the trail for refugees

These Filipina humanitarians are showing the world what it means to be a humanitarian for the refugee cause.

Humanitarianism means being a person for others.

The risks of the humanitarian profession are evident. Helping the most vulnerable entailed challenging missions in the middle of conflict and emergencies. World Humanitarian Day is a day to honor aid workers and the sacrifices they make to deliver help and save lives in the face of danger.

This year, we are featuring four outstanding Filipinas who are raising the banners of humanitarianism for the refugee cause. Their grit and courage are felt across borders, but their empathy for the forcibly displaced defines what it means to be a person in service for others.

Racmah Abdula
Senior Field Associate, UNHCR Philippines

Racmah has been in the field for 15 years. She is instrumental in providing assistance to displaced communities in Mindanao from monitoring activities to relief operations. As a frontliner, Racmah is familiar to the danger that comes with humanitarian fieldwork. She describes the presence of armed men as nerve-wracking. Each time, she summons her inner strength to overcome her fear.

“I saw the advantage of being a woman in the humanitarian field when pacifying heated situations,” Racmah shares in Tagalog.

Past the field’s dangers, Racmah finds fulfillment in reaching remote communities as they are the one that need critical support the most.

“Sometimes, our acts of being with them would mean so much just by listening to their stories, worries, and even hopes for their uncertain futures.”

Racmah’s dedication to displaced families in Mindanao has not gone unnoticed. Just this week, she received the Bangsamoro Humanitarian Service Award from the Mindanao Humanitarian Team for her outstanding work as a humanitarian in Mindanao.

Yam Palma
Field Associate, UNHCR Philippines

“My journey to the humanitarian sector is more a destiny than a plan.”

A filmmaker and educator, Yam never really planned to be a humanitarian. But the calling to help the most vulnerable proved strong. She took a leap of faith and never looked back.

Yam started as a UNHCR field associate after leading an all-women humanitarian team that monitored conflicts in Mindanao. Her work has brought her to many displaced communities in the country, including those who had been affected by the Marawi conflict. A natural storyteller, Yam is drawn to the narrative of rebuilding lives in the face of displacement. Each story fuels her drive to ensure that no one is left behind.

“As a humanitarian worker, I find it rewarding to listen to the narratives of the women and children in the communities I work with and get amazed by how much I have learned from them.”

Brenda Escalante
Protection Officer, UNHCR Yemen

From Serbia to Bangladesh to South Sudan, Brenda is a veteran in providing critical assistance to one of the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. Every problem of the refugee crisis is unique but her passion to help the most vulnerable is unwavering.

“The most rewarding part of my job is being inspired by people’s resilience, courage, and determination to prevail over the difficulties to provide a dignified life for their families,” she tells us.

She also never backs down from a difficult challenge. In 2015, she was deployed to Serbia to help in the Mediterranean humanitarian crisis. Against a harsh winter, Brenda worked hard to ease the passage of refugees seeking asylum in safer haven. The stories of resilience she encountered affirmed her dedication to the forcibly displaced.

“Hope springs eternal for them; there is always a reason to survive and hope.”

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