Five Must-Reads Before Embarking on Your Next Humanitarian Trip Abroad

In today's ravaged world, our eyes are constantly taking in media of the masses of men, women, and children suffering the harsh realities of life in the face of terrorism; widespread poverty, hunger and starvation; global epidemics; and natural disasters. Here are some of the best reads on modern day heros who travel far away from home to tell us the story of humanity.

Little Princes by Conor Grenman

Embarking on a year-long trip around the world, Conor Grenman starts his trip in Nepal, volunteering in the Little Princes Orphanage. When Conor learns these "orphans" have actually been kidnapped from their families by child traffickers, he finds himself vowing to return these lost children to their families in the midst of a war-torn Nepal. You can't help rooting for Farid and the other children Conor promises to return home. To this day, Conor's organization, Next Generation Nepal, has reunited almost 300 families with the children they thought they had lost.

The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster by Jonathan M. Katz

On January 12, 2010, American journalist Jonathan M. Katz was concluding his 2½-year assignment in Haiti when the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck, nearly burying him under the rubble of his own dwelling. In the year following the disaster, Katz heart-wrenchingly recounts international relief efforts towards Haiti gone tremendously awry, including the hypocrisy of foreign policies towards Haiti, the billions of dollars of promised aid that never appeared, and the cholera brought in by U.N. workers that devastated Haiti's remaining earthquake survivors.

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

In Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder tells the story of Paul Farmer, a man who set out to change the world by bringing modern medicine to those who needed it the most. A highly gifted doctor, Farmer could have been a high-paying specialist in any medical institution of his choice; instead he set his path within the low-paying specialties of infectious disease and epidemiology. As Kidder paints the details of the doctor's travels from Haiti to Cuba, Peru, and Russia, it's hard not to lose yourself in the rich and full life of Paul Farmer, who works tirelessly to give hope and cure the world, one patient at a time.

The Heart and the Fist by Eric Greitens

The Heart and the Fist is the story of an American soldier who fights not only for military interests, but for the protection of human life. A Rhodes Scholar and Navy SEAL, Eric Greitens realizes that militarism and humanitarianism must go hand in hand, as the ones who suffer most in war are in desperate need of a protector. In his personal narrative, Greitens leads us through his deployments in Kenya, Afghanistan, and Iraq, touching us with his service to humanity on many different levels.

The Lost Daughters of China by Karin Evans

In 1997, journalist Karin Evans travels to China to adopt a one year-old baby girl, who was "found forsaken" and left at the orphanage. Although it is illegal to abandon babies in China, Evans finds that the number of "lost girls" is in the tens of thousands, and dives deep into the cultural ties and socioeconomic pressures that shape China's governmental policies to bring us the unforgettable story of The Lost Daughters of China.

Christina Wong is a Bay Area native who loves to travel the world. Having herself volunteered for several years in Japan, after the earthquake and tsunami devastated the northeastern part of the country in 2011, she has been engaged in international humanitarian efforts ever since.