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October 03, 2005

Discovering the Ugly bits of Humanitarian Aid Work 

A good Canadian friend of mine is working in a far off land for the campaign to ban landmines. She recently graduated from university and is out in a non-English speaking job. She is well traveled, well educated and comes from a family of humanitarian aid workers. I receive her monthly updates and read every word as they are both interesting and insightful. Here is a tiny bit of one subject covered in this months e-mail. There is nothing like the slow wearing down of innocence. Many people will never feel this awakening of realizing the world is not what they have been told or thought it was. It’s a hard process and only those with the most character survive this revelation and go on to wade through the mire that is the “real world” and try to do good in it.

“Discovering the Ugly bits of Humanitarian Aid Work
I already knew these existed from the frustrations that seeped out of my parents over the years from time to time. But now I’m dealing with them face-to-face: the ugly politics, who gives money to who, competition between NGOs, hob-nobbing with government, being shunned by the government, demands from beneficiaries, demands of donors, the huge difference between what’s written on paper and what actually happens in the real world, and the huge challenge of turning the best of intentions into the best of actions. The simple goal of helping people who need help is so much more complicated than it seems. I’m struggling with whether this is really an area of work I want to subject myself to (and whether it really does any good that is worth subjecting oneself to). These are tough questions….”

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