Words by Bea Lizarondo Soliman | Photos by Lorraine Giron
On February 4, broadcast journalist Atom Araullo was appointed by UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), the UN Refugee Agency, as the Philippine’s first Goodwill Ambassador–a title given to those, as Mr. Shinji Kubo, UNHCR Philippines’ representative, says, who have “demonstrated strong commitment to the refugee cause” and who want to direct this commitment in a deeper sense to addressing the needs of these refugees.
On the same day, UNHCR’s 2 Billion Kilometers to Safety campaign, a campaign Atom is strongly involved in, was officially launched.
In June of 2017, Atom began his involvement with UNHCR and has been an active member in a number of the agency’s engagements, such as raising awareness on the situations of refugees, participating in protection monitoring activities in and out of Marawi City, and supporting the agency’s campaigns like Cities #WithRefugees, which is a campaign that mobilizes cities to welcome the displaced through practices of inclusion and communitarian action.
Atom has also been sent to Mindanao, Jordan, and Bangladesh for field missions, and in these missions, he has been provided with the opportunity to delve into the experiences of those separated by war and violence and to see the UNHCR operations conducted for the protection of these very people. He even uses his own platforms, such as I-Witness, to draw attention to the reality these refugees are faced with on a daily basis and to show the role the agency takes in addressing the problems that manifest within these conditions.
Being the newest addition to UNHCR’s Goodwill Ambassador team, Atom, when asked about what he wishes to accomplish while being in this position, replied with this:
Sometimes, when you go to an area, you’re there as a journalist. You have to move at your own pace, and you have to find these stories; but (now) you go there as part of a refugee agency. You listening to these stories, their hopes and dreams, is something different. You develop a deeper appreciation for the needs of refugees and other displaced people. I’m just looking forward to doing more field visits, listening to these people, and also sharing the story of the Filipino around the world. Gusto ko sabihin na, yes, ang Pilipinas marami pang mga challenges; we’re not there yet. We want to be a prosperous nation as well, but we’re not going to shrink from our responsibility in sheltering these people in need.
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