What 2020 Made Me Realize About Humanitarian Aid

 Just a few reflections from Marte Nymoen, a former Ten Thousand Homes volunteer.

A pandemic, the death of Georg Floyd, and the Australian bushfires are just some of the things that rattled 2020. This year hit us with a bang, making us, or at least me, realize how privileged many of us are. The breakdown of the ordinary forced me to be confronted with how I view the world, especially the developing part of it.

When COVID-19 started spreading in Norway (my home country) and our government basically shut down the country, we all had to sacrifice a part of freedom and normal everyday life to stop the virus from spreading. We had to set our health care workers and the ones that are at risk before ourselves, and it made us realize how fragile our comfortable everyday life is. Most of us embraced it in solidarity. 

We have a word for this in Norway. When people come together to work for a common cause, we call it “dugnad.” We use it when we clean up in our neighborhoods, build a cabin, or now during this period of corona.

A man I interviewed a couple of weeks ago said that he thinks volunteer work and “dugnad” is one of the most beautiful things he knows, because it makes us forget about our social differences and focus on the solutions we want to create. What if the way we do humanitarian aid was like that too? Free from white supremacy and “I know better than you” mentality. What if we came together, knowing we were equally loved and valued, and set aside our differences to focus on the problem we want to fix, instead of putting ourselves above others? 

I have volunteered with Ten Thousand Homes several times [in White River, South Africa], and I admire their work. They create change that will last, because they listen and include the local people in finding solutions for a better future for themselves. Because if it is one thing that 2020 has taught us, it is that we are all vulnerable, and we need each other despite our different social status, skin color, and economic differences.