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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Hero for Today: Ashley Clements of World Vision

Dynamo in the Disaster Zone
Humanitarian Work: Ashley Clements
Text by Lucas Pollock
Photograph by Justyna Mielnikiewicz

The cyclone-ravaged Irrawaddy Delta in Myanmar. Iraqi refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon. Georgia after the Russian invasion. These are not destinations most people seek out. But Ashley Clements is not like most people.

As an emergency coordination specialist for U.S.-based World Vision, Clements, 27, is the aid world's equivalent of a first responder. He shuttles into emerging disaster zones, often ahead of other humanitarian groups and mainstream press, to scout situations, drum up global support with photos and video, and get aid flowing in the right directions. Then he rolls up his shirtsleeves.

In Myanmar, Clements arrived to a land leveled by storm, with an estimated 130,000 dead or missing. Among the ruins, he interviewed orphaned children and fought to reunite them with relatives, however distant, before they were placed in the state's corrupt and squalid facilities. In Jordan, he photographed Iraqi refugees, specifically children, for CNN and the BBC. "I reached 125 million people with[a single] image," he says—an effort that helped integrate thousands of refugee kids into Jordanian schools. In Georgia, Clements touched down before the bullets stopped flying, to assist the 80,000 or so Ossetian and Georgian refugees who had fled to Tbilisi. There he prepped them for winter, handing out blankets and helping to establish cooking facilities, which delivered food to some 25,000 people. There were other disasters in 2008, of course—Darfur and China, to name just two—and other aid workers doing miraculous work. But in terms of sheer global reach and tireless advocacy, few can match Ashley Clements.

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