World Humanitarian Day is celebrated every year on August 19th, recognizing the plight of civilians around the world who have become caught up in conflicts, and the worldwide humanitarian efforts to help them. The United Nations chose this date because it marks the day on which the UN’s Special Representative to Iraq and 21 of his colleagues were killed when terrorists bombed the UN Headquarters in Baghdad on August 19, 2003. This year, the United Nations honors the work of women aid workers throughout the world, focusing on these unsung heroes who rally to help those in need, working on the front lines in their own communities in some of the most difficult terrains across the globe. Women are often the first to respond to a call for help and the last to leave, and these women humanitarians who dedicate their lives to helping people affected by crises deserve to be recognized and celebrated.
Either through war or natural disasters, over 130 million people throughout the world are currently in crisis and in need of humanitarian aid. You can help recognize humanitarian efforts and be part of celebrating the dedication, sacrifice, and willingness to help others in your own community by getting involved and giving back. There are lots of things you can do as an individual to contribute to the health of your community, from helping an individual in need to donating time, money, or both to a large humanitarian organization.
It’s in our nature to help others, and it feels good when we do, so it’s a “win/ win” situation. Here are some ways you can help someone on World Humanitarian Day (or any day of the year) and give back to your community in a tangible way.
- Visit someone in the hospital. Do you know someone in the hospital? Visit them and bring them an appropriate get well card. Don’t know anyone you could visit? Why not inquire at the front desk if there’s someone who hasn’t had any visitors and see if you can help brighten someone else’s day. When people are hospitalized, they can experience a tremendous amount of fear and anxiety, and a visit from someone who cares can help ease that fear.
- Take a meal to a new mom. Ask friends, neighbors, and church friends who had a baby recently, and take the family a meal. New moms have plenty to do, and not cooking a meal one day could free them up to spend more time with the new bundle of joy.
- Visit an elderly person who lives alone. There’s nothing worse than being lonely and feeling forgotten. Visiting someone who is at home alone can be fun for both of you. You can bring in a sense of the outside world to someone who may not get out much. Bring a game or puzzle you can enjoy together.
- Volunteer at a local food bank. Spending just a few hours at a food bank serving food, cooking, or cleaning up is a great way to give back to those in need.
- Donate to a homeless shelter. Are you good at making hats, gloves, scarves, blankets, toys, or clothing? Consider turning your hobby into a donation for a local homeless shelter. Not too crafty but have things you’re not using? Donating items is another great way to contribute. If all else fails, you can make a cash donation.
- Take a book to a nursing home. Lots of nursing homes have volunteers who come in to read, sing, perform, or lead exercises for the residents, but not everyone there can participate in every activity. Seek out that person who rarely gets visitors and offer to spend some time reading to them. If the facility allows pets to visit and you have a dog or cat that is friendly, ask if your furry friend can come along, too.
- Help clean up a local park. We all enjoy playing in the park, so why not check with the local parks department in your town about the need for volunteers and see if you can help keep your local park beautiful for everyone to enjoy.
- Volunteer at a local hospital. Most hospitals need volunteers. Helping people who are ill can help them gain a sense of encouragement to get better.
- Help someone shop. Offering shopping assistance can help children, families, adults and the elderly population. Single parent families are often overburdened with responsibilities and time commitments, and the simple act of making a shopping run to the grocery store for a single parent can mean more quality time they can spend with their families.
You don’t need to travel halfway across the world to a foreign country experiencing a natural disaster or other crisis to be part of World Humanitarian Day. If you simply take some time to look around you with a view to give, you will find ways to lend your time, talents, and/ or finances to a worthy cause.