SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Five members of the International Rescue Committee received recognition Monday night for their humanitarian work around the world.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

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Even as they were honored in San Francisco, at least one honoree’s thoughts were elsewhere – in particular, Haiti, which struggled to cope with a deadly outbreak of cholera.

Haiti’s cholera outbreak was expected to keep spreading, but perhaps not as quickly as officials there had feared.

It’s already killed more than 250 people in rural parts of the country. The main concern was that it would spread to the earthquake survivors camped out in the city’s capital. Aid groups and the government were finding reason for hope, pointing to a drop in the death rate and in the number of new cases.

Honoree Rebecca Chandler spent more than five months in Haiti after January’s destructive earthquake, as IRC’s Emergency Child Protection Coordinator.

“We do have a water and sanitation team that’s working on hygiene, health promotion, latrines,” she explained. “I mean, we were thinking about cholera right when we first responded.”

She began as a social worker in New York. She since transitioned into a first responder of sorts in any international emergency where children were at risk.

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It’s a job she described as immensely gratifying.

“It’s compelling, you know, when you can automatically see a dramatic change in what you’ve done,” said Chandler. “In the last five years I’ve been to Chad, Sudan, I spent two and a half years in Darfur. Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Myanmar and Liberia.”

In Haiti, she helped reunite more than 100 children with their families.

“Oh, can you tell me about your community, and we draw pictures,” she described her interaction with Haitian children. “Okay, where’s your school, where did you used to play? Oh, you went to the church, what was the pastor’s name? Oh, father blah blah blah.”

She and four other humanitarians were honored by Bay Area philanthropist George Sarlo.

She offered a humble assessment of her deployments.

“It’s the place with the most need, I could be a social worker in New York and that would be incredibly moving and inspiring but I’m going to places where children have nothing. You know, and just being able to give a voice to someone who doesn’t have one is, I mean, there’s no words to describe that.”

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