This Christmas, Jaya Murthy is trading in his bulletproof vest for some time well spent with extended family in Toronto.
The Manitoba native is stationed in Iraq as the chief of strategic communications and partnerships for UNICEF.
While in Toronto for the holidays, his nieces and nephews remind him of the basic necessities many children in the world are not afforded.
“The longer I (am in the field), the more I realize how fortunate we are here in Canada where our government functions well and there are so many essential services provided for us,” said Murthy. “More children should have their essential rights realized.”
Before Iraq, the 34-year-old spent seven years in Africa, mainly the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“I remember talking to mothers in a nutrition centre (in the Congo), where their children were just skin and bones and them saying all they wanted is for their children to grow up, have food and be healthy,” said Murthy.
According to Murthy, there are more than 100,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in the Congo alone.
He admits there are times when field work is relentless. Coming face-to-face with rebel forces and fighting to free child soldiers would make even the most passionate humanitarian worker question his career path.
But for Murthy, he says helping others is who he is.