THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Craig and Marc Kielburger Headshot

These Canadian Humanitarians Died Trying To Create A Better World

Posted: Updated:
Print

An emotional mother demanded to know what Tim Stone had done to her daughter.

Stone was a soft-spoken Canadian aid worker who had a way with kids, recalls Jean Lash, his former wife. Improving children's health in places like Afghanistan, Cambodia and Mali was his life's work.

In Afghanistan in the early 1980s, Stone was helping children who were suffering from severe malnutrition. The impact of his efforts shocked some parents.

The Afghan mother who confronted Stone was suspicious of the sudden behavioural change in her once quiet and inactive daughter, who transformed into a boisterous girl when her health improved.

Stone's work with PATH Canada (now Health Bridge) may have very well saved the girl's life -- but it took his own.

In honour of World Humanitarian Day on August 19, we are introducing you to a few of the too-many Canadians who have given their lives in the service of others.

Twenty years ago, the plane Stone was travelling on was hijacked, and crashed. He is one of more than 100 Canadian aid workers killed over the past 50 years.

Although they are not soldiers, humanitarians working abroad face risks like war, disease, and nature's wrath.

In January, a Quebec family that was in Burkina Faso to build schools, died in a terrorist attack. Sadly, such violence is on the rise.

In honour of World Humanitarian Day on August 19, we are introducing you to a few of the too-many Canadians who have given their lives in the service of others.

Shirley Case

When Case wasn't at work on an aid project, she was hanging out with locals, learning the language and making friends.

After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Case joined CARE International relief efforts in the devastated Aceh region of Indonesia. Four years later, she went to Afghanistan with the International Rescue Committee to help create education opportunities for disabled youth.

In August 2008, Case was returning from a school visit when gunmen ambushed her car. She was killed along with another Canadian, Jacqueline Kirk, and two other aid workers. After her death, Case's Facebook page was flooded with tributes from her countless friends around the world.

Sgt. Mark Gallagher

RCMP Sgt. Gallagher wanted to use the years before his retirement to make a difference in the world. In 2009, he leapt at the opportunity to join Canada's police training mission in Haiti, helping combat corruption and protect human rights.

"Mark was compassionate and completely non-judgemental about people," says his widow, Lisa Gallagher.

She told us how Haitian street kids approached Gallagher and begged for change as he headed out for dinner one night. Seeing their emaciated bodies, he beckoned them to follow. By the time Gallagher reached the restaurant, he'd attracted a crowd of 15 children. He treated them all to spaghetti.

When the massive earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, the decorated officer and father of two never made it out of his apartment building.

sgt mark gallagher
RCMP pallbearers carry the casket of Sgt. Mark Gallagher who was killed in a earthquake in Haiti at CFB Trenton on January 22, 2010 in Trenton, Ont. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Isabelle Pelletier

As a volunteer in Montreal, Isabelle Pelletier worked tirelessly to help people with HIV and AIDS. In 2003, Pelletier joined a two-year AIDS health project in Burkina Faso with Carrefour Canadien International. She fell in love with the country, happily returning in 2005 for another two-year contract with Oxfam Quebec.

In Zabre, a small rural town with no electricity, Pelletier planted community gardens and ran a program for female entrepreneurs. Villagers would show up at her door day and night with all kinds of problems, and she never turned them away.

Pelletier planned to stay on for another two years but she contracted cerebral malaria in 2006 and died.

These stories remind us that aid workers are incredible people who give up so much in the service of others. Let's take a moment to thank them, and honour those who lost their lives in the passionate pursuit of a better world.

Craig and Marc Kielburger are the co-founders of the WE movement, which includes WE Charity, ME to WE Social Enterprise and WE Day.

Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook

ALSO ON HUFFPOST: