As a senior adviser for the International Rescue Committee, Greg Matthews rushes to disasters for a living.
He has helped refugees fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq, designing programs using a mix of traditional relief supplies, such as food and hygiene kits, with cash grants, job training, and placement and business start-up assistance.
Two things inspired Greg Matthews while growing up in Hartford, Conn. A 10th-grade social studies teacher got him thinking about international problems and the challenge of fixing them. And one day, when Matthews was giving swimming lessons, a student mentioned his father was leaving for Turkey for search-and-rescue work after an earthquake.
“I thought, ‘Wow, that’s really cool,'” Matthews recalls.
Even after marriage and the birth of a child, the seductive pull to international relief work remains. “It’s that sense that I belong there. This is what I’m good at. I can do this,” he says. “Every time I turn on the news and I hear that there’s a major disaster, (an) emergency breaking out somewhere across the world, I definitely get that adrenalin rush and my body starts kind of shaking a little bit.”
It’s quickly followed by a sense of dread, Matthews says. He wishes these terrible crises never happened at all.