Career Humanitarian Paul Hebert receives Daniels Award

30 March, 2011
Thomas Slater Jr. ’66 (right), president of the VMI Board of Visitors, presents the Jonathan Daniels Humanitarian Award to Paul Hebert ’68. Credit: VMI/Kevin Remington.
Thomas Slater Jr. ’66 (right), president of the VMI Board of Visitors, presents the Jonathan Daniels Humanitarian Award to Paul Hebert ’68. Credit: VMI/Kevin Remington.

Paul Hebert received the Virginia Military Institute’s (VMI) Jonathan M. Daniels ’61 Humanitarian Award on 30 March 2011, in honor of his 35 years of humanitarian work. The award recognizes those who have made considerable personal sacrifices to protect and improve the lives of others, and the first two recipients were former President Jimmy Carter and former Ambassador Andrew Young. Hebert addressed the audience of VMI’s Corps of Cadets at the award ceremony, sharing insights from his life and work.

“Making sacrifices for the betterment of others for me is the essence of the award. I encourage each of you to look for opportunities to be of service to others,” he said.

Hebert believes the discipline and camaraderie of the VMI education strengthened his character. Hebert went on to work in Asia and Africa to develop low-cost water supply and sanitation approaches in 12 countries, and in 1991 The United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs asked Hebert to help develop systems to monitor humanitarian relief in Northern Iraq.

“I found this need and work so compelling that I continued and never looked back,” Hebert said. Over the course of 16 years, Hebert worked mostly on the ground, where he encountered difficult situations that forced him to develop a variety of new skills.

“A lot of people can’t do this,” said Hebert of his work, particularly witnessing people in desperate circumstances such as starvation. “You see these people who are basically skin and bone and these children, who you know are not going to live another day. It’s a test of character to be able to endure seeing these situations.”

Now retired and recently back in the United States, Hebert is continuing work on a schools project for the Kibera slum in Kenya. Hebert stresses the need for preparedness and prevention, not only reaction to humanitarian crises. Helping others has become the core of not only his career, but also his retirement and home life over the years.