From refugee to aid worker

Kaweh Hagi Negad shares a light moment with Sudanese refugee community leaders during the relocation from Jamam to Kaya camp. UNHCR/ B. Sokol
Summary: 
Kaweh Hagi Negad believes that one event determined the course of his life. After escaping the Iran-Iraq war of 1981 by fleeing to Sweden aged four Negad became a refugee.

Kaweh Hagi Negad believes that one event determined the course of his life. After escaping the Iran-Iraq war of 1981 by fleeing to Sweden aged four Negad became a refugee. It was this event and the subsequent journey that saw him travel through ten countries that he says shaped his life. Negad moved from life as a refugee to that as aid worker helping others with whom he once shared a similar plight. Here he reflects on his life journey and where he now finds himself – working as a Field Officer with UNHCR in South Sudan’s Kaya refugee camp.

“Perhaps we started you on a path you are destined to continue walking,” reflected Negad’s father recently to his son.

“My father’s words have always rung true in my mind,” says Negad. “I sincerely believe that the path my life has taken was shaped by this event and further determined by living with neighbours in similar situations from various parts of the world.”

“Going to school was like walking into the UN General Assembly every morning,” he recalls.

Although Negad’s dark middle-eastern features set him apart from his Swedish peers, his adoptive country embraced his family and the many nationalities that had sought refuge in the country. The value of being one’s brother’s keeper created in Negad a gratefulness and desire to emulate and demonstrate the values of good neighbourliness, kindness and protection he received as a refugee.

“As a former refugee and humanitarian worker, I yearn for a time when countries did not readily build fortresses to keep out refugees and other people of concern, like is done today simply because countries and governments can,” says Negad.

“There was a time when empathy and the importance of protecting another man’s life took precedence over much else, to the point where in some countries, their citizens paid dearly and even with their lives, for protecting refugees.”

“If I can make a difference in anyone’s life I will because I know what making a difference can mean today, tomorrow and in the future.”

Ten countries later, five in which he worked with UNHCR, Negad is currently based in South Sudan’s Maban County, a place which has become home to over 118,000 Sudanese refugees. The Sudanese people living in the camps in Upper Nile State have fled war and hunger that has raged their homelands in Blue Nile for the past two years.

“What is special about my job here is how we live attached to the camps,” says Negad.” We never close the door at the end of a work day as whether by design or default, we live in community with the refugees here. ”

“As a former refugee and a relief worker, I identify strongly with the fears and aspirations of these people. My job is to help them as best I can in either dispelling those fears, or helping them realize their aspirations, as I did so many years ago.”

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