A hollowed heart

I sat across from a 15 year old Syrian refugee who said to me, ‘I know we are young in age, but in reality we are women in our forties”.  And through the lens of my forty year old eyes I knew she was right.  She has experienced a level of violence I hope never to understand, felt the acute loss of family members, breathed the worry and fear for missing family members.   Each day when she wakes she knows the struggle of finding work in the hope of having enough food to support what is left of her family.  In her reality she is a mature responsible adult whose sole purpose is to ensure the survival of her family.

So what am I?

Several years ago when I aspired to this role and started this blog I was passionate, dedicated and full of optimism of what being an emergency humanitarian communicator would be. I barely recognise the younger woman who wrote these words:

It is about that one child whose story and image can make a desensitised world take notice.  It is about that one mother who survives with hope for her children’s future that makes another mother in another country want to act.  It’s about letting those who are suffering know that people around the world do care and that they will help in any way they can”.  How to become an emergency communicator, June 2012

Now, after countless interviews with so many children living in conflict I feel like I am letting those living in constant suffering down.  In the current world, with so many political and social challenges that too frequently turn to hateful and belittling discourse how do I keep telling the stories that will make people want to love and care for their neighbours and bring hope to the lives of children?

Working in humanitarian communications often makes me feel like I am a conduit or translator without influence.  I am just the person who sits and talks with children affected by conflict, asking them to articulate their challenges and needs, encouraging them to provide feedback on what current humanitarian interventions are working and what needs to be improved.  I then spend hours starting at my laptop and painstakingly turn their raw emotions, their pain and their profound sadness at a society that, at best they feel has abandoned them and at worst, betrayed them, into something some stranger will read.  Something that will evoke a stirring in the heart or at least provide a rational argument to the brain of a decision maker who has it within their power to do something.  I often feel as though my attempts to convince governments, donors and publics to take some form of action is the coldest thing I do.

I remain passionate and dedicated to these children, but I have lost the battle to remain optimistic. I am pragmatic; realistic.  I know what my words can and can not achieve. I am a heart that has hollowed with each conversion of a child’s tears into clinically worded bullet-points aimed at faceless targets.



Filed under Emergency Communications, In the field, Leadership

8 responses to “A hollowed heart

  1. Oh Tan reading this made me just want to hug you. Trust that you do make a difference – no matter how small or unseen by you – and that it matters. x

  2. Pauline Bennetto

    Tania you have grown into a wonderful caring person but then again I think it was always obvious. We have all experienced that special someone who just sits and listened to us. We gain the courage to take those words and go on with our lives. Keep, keeping on. xx

  3. Thoughts that pierce the soul. Thanks for the courage to be real. For the courage to expose yourself to their stories, like film to burning light. To allow the images to be etched on your soul, Tanya. There is a quiet courage in continuing to tell their stories, even when futility seems assured.

    “Anyone can slay a dragon…but try waking up every morning and loving the world all over again. That’s what takes a real hero.” ~Brian Andreas

    A reflection once led me to jot:

    Cry out for anyone to listen,
    To make eyes of flint open, glisten:
    The world is fierce &
    In need of a love fiercer still.

    As Oscar Wilde has it, “Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis.”

    May our hearts and tongues keep crying out, whatever the consequence.

  4. Sorry, the “scream is better than a thesis” should’ve been attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, not Oscar Wilde. (In my defence, it’s rather au courant to mix things up with the Oscars! 😉

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