In the Name of the Father


Ricky Hoffman responding to a house fire in Lancaster Ohio

By Christopher M. Hoffman

Father’s day provides us with a great opportunity to highlight the humanity of our staff and the work that we do.  Like many of you I have a son and am a son.  My father has been the professional role model that many of us strive to be:  conscientious, efficient, hungry for growth and focused.  At the same time and what I think is an ironic twist of fate, my father is a Disaster Management Specialist like myself.  He started as a fireman in the local fire brigade and now helps to coordinate the state-wide disaster response teams in Ohio.  I can honestly say that what I am doing today is an exact reflection on the teaching and the expertise that my father imparted and imparts on me today.  In IOM, I can think of many great examples of father/son combo’s that are effecting change on the organization at the Geneva and field level and this message is for you.

Upon more serious reflection, and by taking the lead from our own father/son experiences it is important to remember the people we serve—the father/son combo’s in displaced situations.  Refugee Day on June 20th gives us a chance to look at the opportunities that we had with our fathers, the nurturing and learning--that many in protracted crisis miss out on as their fatherhood is based on securing a solid tent, or a bag of food and not necessarily on supporting their son’s growth.  We concentrate our efforts in many cases on the vulnerable individuals that are displaced, and in many cases the fathers are not always the focus of our response.  We should remember on June 16th and on June 20th that fathers play a large role in the lives of their sons, and even in displacement situations and protracted crisis, the fathers can be drivers for change--driving their children to grow, to learn and to succeed.

If I can take one thing away from the next week, and if I can give you one thing to think about—remember your father and what he has done to influence your life so that when you assist others in displacement and protracted situations you also keep in mind that the father of the son you are assisting also plays a large role in building the resilience and wherewithal of the child in his care, for when displacement ends he too can be a father to nurture his son.

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Christopher M. Hoffman is the Emergency and Post Crisis Specialist in IOM's Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok, Thailand