Humanitarian worker from S. Korea shares experience working at PH detention facility – Manila Bulletin

A South Korean detention delegate from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) shared his experience working at District Jail 6 in Bicutan, Taguig City.

International Committee of the Red Cross

Thirty-two-year-old Hyeon-Geun Lee arrived in the Philippines in 2021 to work as a detention delegate on behalf of the ICRC—an organization that ensures humanitarian protection for victims of armed conflicts and other violence.

Lee’s advocacy is to ensure that the persons deprived of liberty are treated humanely, have regular communication with their relatives, and are treated fairly in accordance with the law.

Some of his tasks in the facility include attending to the needs and personally applying medicine to the wounds of detainees suffering from scabies—one of the most infectious diseases in a highly congested detention facility.

“I talk to the authorities [about the living conditions of detainees]. After visits, we share our findings bilaterally and confidentially with them and make recommendations on how they can improve the conditions,” he said in an interview with the ICRC.

He and his colleagues are working together with the authorities to find a solution to this disease that has swept almost all detention facilities in the country.

“Although the detaining authorities may want to provide more humane living conditions inside the jail, they might also face challenges in doing so. That’s why the ICRC works along with the detaining authorities and other parties concerned, including the judiciary, to enhance the efforts to decongest prisons,” he continued.

Lee, who was born in Korea but grew up in New Zealand, admitted that there was no remarkable experience or person that led him into the path of humanitarian work.

“I can’t say that a specific person or event guided me to this career but I haven’t thought of doing anything else in life. Since my university days, I have wanted to pursue a career with a humanitarian organization. I followed my interests and they have led me here,” Lee said.

Since he is an Economics and Political Science graduate, this career direction is the most practical one to take, he said.

“Hyeon-Geun Lee and detainees of the Metro Manila District Jail 6 in Bicutan, Taguig, pose with ‘finger
hearts’”. Photo by Lorenzo ARADA/International Committee of the Red Cross

But working as a detention delegate is not an easy task, Lee said.

For him, 90 percent of your time will be spent talking and working closely with strangers.

“But when I started my job here as a detention delegate, I learned that I have to be curious always about every piece of information that I receive. I can’t be shy in asking questions because that’s how you get to learn more,” Lee said.

Aside from that, Lee also constantly visits the Visayas region to assess and determine the needs of people affected by conflicts in communities.

One part of his job is to know what else ICRC can do to improve the quality of life of the people in the said region.

Be part of the change

Lee said that there are many opportunities at ICRC which people can use to make a difference in society.

New graduates and experienced professionals from different walks of life are welcome, they will easily find where they can pour their passion for humanitarian work at this organization, Lee said.

“There are many professional paths within the ICRC. You could be an accountant, a lawyer, or a human resource expert working to support communities affected by conflicts. Working in a humanitarian organization is a privilege and an opportunity to expand your horizon,” he stated.

“I have no regrets over the path I chose,” he added.





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