Time magazine recently named Mustafa Hassan , an aid worker with the international rescue committee, one of the world’s 100 most influential people for his tireless efforts to protect the youngest victims of syria’s civil war.
mustafa hassan’s infectious smile is a familiar sight to children playing in the dusty lanes of jordan’s zaatari and azraq refugee camps. the 52-year-old international rescue committee aid worker is a calming presence amid the chaos and ravages of war. he has become a father figure to the camps’ young syrian refugees, and they look to him for comfort and advice.
mustafa and the 50 members of his child-protection team do the painstaking detective work necessary to help children separated from their families reunite with relatives.
it’s all too easy for kids to get lost in the chaos of conflict, mustafa explains. some trek as many as 10 days to reach the camps across the border, an unimaginably dangerous and difficult journey.
so far, mustafa and his colleagues have helped close to 1,000 syrian children in the camps rejoin their loved ones. the irc provides temporary care and shelter in both zaatari and azraq for more than 2,000 unaccompanied and seperated children, most of whom are 14 to 17 years old.
mustafa was motivated to build a career in human rights and humanitarian aid by the decades-long darfur conflict in his native sudan. he put himself through school by working odd jobs—in a supermarket, on a farm, and at a newsstand—before becoming a social worker in darfur in 2004. he also worked in sri lanka and kenya before joining the irc a year ago.
mustafa’s work in crisis zones sometimes takes him from his own two children. “every time they welcome me when i return home, they remind me of all the children who cannot enjoy such a moment because they lost parents,” he says. “and i am reminded of all the parents who are desperate to find their children or else live with the devastating truth that they might never come back.”