Diary of an Oxfam aid worker

Share this page: 

Originally from the Philippines, Duoi Ampilan has helped people facing disaster all over the world. Here, he tells us why his job is now more important than ever.

Dear Diary,

So much has been said and written about our sector's issues and shameful experiences but not much on how we move heaven and earth; on how we face our fears every day; and how we sacrifice ourselves to be able to faithfully render our vowed responsibilities. It is not all about the work but the heart we put into our work and what we are willing to endure in the name of service.

Let me tell you, my Dear Diary, some of my experiences with Oxfam when I was deployed to some of the most difficult contexts on Earth. Among the closest to my heart is my 12 months of work in South Sudan before and after its independence. That is where I developed further the love for this work. I broke my heart many times because of the suffering of the people.

You can imagine a situation where people wait for two days to get a drinking water. Women and children in many villages walked hours in search for water. In the village of Amethaker in Gogrial East, children only wash every 3 weeks because the place was too dry during the six-month drought.

I am glad that we drilled some boreholes to some of these thirsty communities. It was so nice to hear people praising us because we quenched their thirst. But you know Dear Diary, much of the credit should be given to our supporters, who have been very generous in extending their love and generosity.

At this portion of my writing Dear Diary, I shed tears. I never cried when I was stung by scorpions twice in South Sudan, when I got malaria and typhoid fever. I cried as I asked myself what will happen if people will no longer support us for their regular donations because of the work of a few men? Because there are more people in many countries needing our support and services.

Doui leading the volunteers for the rehearsal on Hand-Washing dance, part of Oxfam's hygiene promotion program after Typhoon Haiyan in Philippines, November 2013.

Doui leading the volunteers for the rehearsal on Hand-Washing dance, part of Oxfam's hygiene promotion program after Typhoon Haiyan in Philippines, November 2013. Photo: Oxfam

Do you remember the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa? Among other humanitarian aid workers, I was called to respond but I refused. I was fearing for my life. But when I realized that I am living not only for myself but for others, then I had to conquer my fears and the uncertainties. I worked in Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2014 and 2015. I had to embrace the social stigma too. Nobody wanted to touch me or even sit beside me months after I served in West Africa.

I also worked in Yemen in 2016 and 2017 even though my family and friends were persuading me to change career when they learned that I was heading to support the people pushed by the civil war into the desert and into the sea. It was not easy living under the falling bombs and also hearing the melancholy of the people day in and day out. I was trapped in Aden, my Dear Diary, when I needed to go home because my father passed away. Every day was very long and tormenting emotionally. I wanted to support my grieving family but I could not go home.

Dear Diary, if others are not true to their vowed promise to help people in need in times of calamity while working with any organization, please do not forget that there are those who are moving mountains to ensure that every cent that people give is reaching people who urgently need help.

Please do not forget too that many of us have lost their lives while we are delivering humanitarian services in many of the world's biggest crises.

I put my heart into my work because I know that not everyone has this honor and privilege to be of service to mankind this way.

Note from Oxfam:
If you'd like to send Duoi a message, please email feedback@oxfam.org.uk and we will pass your message on.

Photo at top: Duoi checking hygiene kits in Yemen, where Oxfam, working with local partners, has reached more than 1.5 million people with humanitarian aid since July 2015. Credit: Oxfam