Life as an International Aid Worker

Four months in Myanmar, three months in Yemen and then five months in Turkey. While most of these destinations sound like many people’s worst nightmare, there is a certain type of person to whom these sound ideal: international aid workers.

Imagine living in the bush in sub-Saharan Africa working 10, 12-hour days, hundreds of miles away from anything resembling a city, to coordinating aid packages for war refugees in less-than-safe locations, to being the first crew on the ground after an international disaster like a tsunami.

While one might choose to invest themselves longer in a particular country or region, the life and work of a humanitarian is vastly different than your typical 9 – 5 grind.

Despite the long hours and penchant for danger, working ‘in the field’ for an NGO remains one of the hardest careers to snag post-college.

“It is not an easy sector to get into,” says Martha Reggiori-Wilkes, a millennial who has worked with an international NGO in both South Sudan and Lebanon. “It can sound like a quite romantic thing to do. And there are lot of very, very good people who want to do it.”

Although Reggiori-Wilkes loves working for a humanitarian aid organization, she “[has] a lot of friends in the sector who when they go home…feel very detached. They are doing such different work and living in such different worlds.”

Bonding with fellow ex-pats, being exposed firsthand to a different way of life, the ability to affect change through work and the opportunity for travel are all reasons why working for a humanitarian agency in a developing country can be such a sought-after job. Not only is the work fulfilling, but it is edifying, immersing you in a completely new culture and way of thinking.

 [Alexandra Talty, writing in Forbes] 

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