Sarah Dawn Petrin was born in an African village during the midst of a drought. The elders there prayed that she would be a good omen, that she would “bring rain” to the parched earth. While that miracle did not occur, she continued to carry that hope with her. “For the rest of my life,” she writes, “I wanted to bring relief to hungry and thirsty people.”
In “Bring Rain: Helping Humanity in Crisis,” Petrin describes her lifelong mission of serving in some of the most challenging situations in the world. She began helping refugees at the age of 15, herded tourists to safety on the day an active shooter opened fire at the US Capitol and has dedicated her life to making a difference to those in need all over the world. Like a modern-day Zelig, she has been at the site of every global disaster ‒ the Indonesian tsunami, the Haitian earthquake, Hurricane Katrina and the Ebola outbreak in Africa ‒ to help assess and meet the needs of people.
In “Bring Rain,” Petrin parses her extensive experience as both a rallying cry and a how-to guide for those who wish to follow in her inspiring footsteps. She explores the root causes of much of the world’s misery, including war, poverty and natural disasters, and describes how humanitarian aid can help make a difference. She is the first to admit that “seeing people experience the same kinds of hardship over and over again” can be discouraging, and acknowledges that “there are times and places where circumstances are so overwhelming, you know that short-term relief is a drop in the bucket.”
Nonetheless, Petrin maintains that the rewards outweigh the frustrations, but that the satisfactions do not come without sacrifice. She advises would-be humanitarians to set realistic expectations, be prepared for obstacles, learn to live light, try to stay safe and, above all, not to lose faith in humanity. “Your reward will be seeing people and places that were once in crisis transformed by the changes you made possible,” she writes. “Offer yourself to the problems you see. The world needs you.”
Sarah Petrin has worked in more than 20 countries with the United Nations and the Red Cross and is the founder of Protect the People. www.sarahpetrin.com