Last Friday evening I attended the “I Was Here” event at the United Nations headquarters in New York in celebration of World Humanitarian Day. First launched in 2007 to honor the 22 people who were killed
during an attack at the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad in 2003, World Humanitarian Day is celebrated every year on August 19 to honor and celebrate those who help people in need and dedicate their lives to provide food, shelter, security and health
care to those who desperately need it. This year the
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (OCHA) set out to reach 1 billion people with the message of helping one another on World Humanitarian Day and every day of the year.
In attendance at the event was Beyoncé who filmed the video for her song I Was Here in the UN General Assembly Hall. Beyoncé donated her video to spread the word about World Humanitarian Day and the site
whd-iwashere.org where anyone can sign up to pledge to do something to help another person on August 19.
The evening was capped off by Beyonce’s moving performance, but the night started with remarks by Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator for OCHA and poignant interviews by CNN’s Anderson Cooper
with extraordinary people who have committed their lives to helping others.
First, Anderson Cooper interviewed Laurent Vieira de Mello who helped start the Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation. Sergio is Laurent’s father and a humanitarian who was killed in the worst
attack against the United Nations in 2003. The Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation works to advance the humanitarian notion of conflict resolution through peaceful means.
Anderson Cooper also interviewed Pernille Ironside, a Child Protection Specialist in Emergencies for UNICEF, who has negotiated the release of children from Ugandan warlords and the Nepalese government.
Cooper then interviewed Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier in Sierra Leone who was saved by a team from UNICEF in the 1990′s. He wrote A Long Way Gone,
his acclaimed memoir about being a child soldier. He recounted how his immediate family was killed and how he sought refuge at a military base. After a week at the base he had been taught to be a child soldier. He was only 12-years-old. Beah wrote his book
to tell his story and the stories of millions of children just like him. His story shows that even though children are taught to commit horrible atrocities that they can come back from living as children of war.
Finally Anderson Cooper interviewed Erin Dinan, a New York City-based photographer who started
One Sandwich at a Time, a nonprofit that comes together twice a month to feed New York’s homeless. What started as a simple idea to feed others has turned into an organization with massive reach
that just recently fed 600 people in New York City. Learn more about her work at www.onesandwichatatime.com.
On August 19 millions will celebrate World Humanitarian Day and commit to do something – no matter how small – to help someone else. Visit
whdiwashere.org to learn more.