In anticipation of World Humanitarian Day on 19 August, WFP is joining other organizations and agencies around the globe to acknowledge the heroes who risk their lives every day to help people in need. WFP Malawi spoke to one of its own humanitarian heroes, Gregorio Kambuwa, who retired last month at the age of 65 after having served on the team for 15 years.
“By 1999 I had spent 12 years working as a driver at the Reserve Bank of Malawi, when a friend suggested I apply for a short-term post at WFP,” says Gregorio.
What began as a one-week job was soon extended, and Gregorio went on to complete numerous short term contracts before eventually gaining a full-time position at the Blantyre office. He transferred to Lilongwe in 2000.
As a WFP driver, Gregorio travelled up and down the country delivering essential food supplies to health clinics, primary schools and refugee centres. As one of the longest serving staff members on the team, he worked amidst some of the country’s most devastating food emergencies in 2001, 2005 and most recently, during two consecutive years years of widespread food insecurity since 2012.
“It was very rewarding to know that the work I did made such a big difference to the lives of so many Malawians, especially during times of crisis,” he says. “It feels good to have made a contribution towards fighting hunger in Malawi.”
Gregorio’s work was not without its challenges. Lack of infrastructure – particularly the condition of Malawi’s roads in rural areas – was a regular obstacle he faced on the job.
“During the rainy season, when dirt roads turn into mud, it can be quite dangerous for large vehicles. I remember getting stuck on several occasions. Once, while making my way to Ntchisi, the roads were so bad that I was forced to spend the whole night waiting for conditions to improve.”
Knowing that these challenges were an inevitable part of making sure that the most vulnerable population in hard-to-reach areas received the food assistance they needed, Gregorio emphasizes that he has only fond memories of his time at WFP and the work achieved.
“I was very happy at WFP, and I liked that my job allowed me to meet so many different people in each new place I visited. The work was also rewarding on a professional level,” says Gregorio, “because I gained important skills over the years, specifically in communication and planning.”
“Does he consider himself a humanitarian?” we asked. “Of course!” he replied without hesitation. And in his opinion the world still needs more humanitarian heroes. This is especially important as we work towards achieving the UN Secretary General’s Zero Hunger Challenge to eliminate hunger in our lifetimes.
“I would advise all those who are still working to continue to work hard all of the time, not just for money, but in order to help others. The work I did with WFP was an important part of my life; I only wish I had more time to continue.”