“He angrily threatened to hack me with a big, sharp knife”

For World Humanitarian Day we’re paying tribute to our humanitarian heroes in the field.

Edgar Morbos, a senior programme officer in the Philippines, retained his calm determination, even under intense pressure:

“Organizing communities is like a steep, uphill climb with a breathtaking view waiting at the top. I have been working with communities for more than a decade, and the job has both its perks and detriments.

“In 2008, I was working on a community-managed water system project in Eastern Samar, Philippines. This community was known for serious disputes arising among locals over water access.

“Water, which came from a nearby cave, was not equally distributed to all households: some families fetch water from common tap stands while others have water connections inside their own homes.

“To help the community have a sustainable water system that is equally accessible to all members, they were involved in all aspects of the project implementation.

“After attending capacity building training for the members of the water management association, the community agreed that all houses with individual water connections must install meters for their water usage; otherwise their connection will be cut off.

“One member could not see how the new system would benefit the entire community. He angrily threatened to hack me with a big, sharp bolo [local knife].

“I could have been easily discouraged then because my personal safety was on the line, but I knew that he just needed to see the bigger picture.

“So with the help of some local officials, we persevered in explaining to him how this project could help his family and community long-term.

“There will be communities that could feel threatened or overwhelmed by what we envision for them. Thus, humanitarians like us must be persistent in making the communities see how our projects can help them have better lives.”