OK punk, you got your first humanitarian aid job? Well, me too! And I’m trying to document how I’m going about it, to refer to later when I almost forget again what to pack in my carryon to avoid what happened this time when my bags got lost (ok, the third time…) and cuz I like writing advice for people like me who didn’t grow up flitting about the world but instead are only now flitting as grown-ass Adults, whose airplane tickets are paid for by stuff like jobs and school, and who perpetually feel like we missed some kind of basic training for this sort of thing cuz everyone else in the airport is suddenly walking somewhere else really fast and shouldn’t I follow them…?
International aid and development work is some elitest shit. In general, employers expect 2 years abroad experience for an entry-level NGO job (or unpaid internship!). Professional-level fluency in a foreign language and a masters degree are also basic entry requirements. Of course, this means that sons and daughters of rich people who sent them to European language summer schools and volunteer vacations have an unfair advantage over equally or better qualified but poorer peers. And that’s another ugly truth about this field, which is that besides the class gap between high-paid international staff and the national staff and people we work with/for, there is also a tendency for the intl staff to be of a wealthier class background than most people in the country they come from. There’s not a lot of ‘solidarity not charity’ in NGOs because it’s a wealthy-class field; few people link the poverty they see abroad with poverty and economic injustice at home. Writing about and linking to others’ writing on ways to get around some of these barriers to entry and thinking on how to change the dynamics and structures of this work are too much for this post and for my brain lately (see the post about living in a concrete box for details). What I can do is offer some experiences navigating what is.
So here is my ongoing series of international travel and aid work how-to’s:
- Prepping for CAR: On studying up before you leave
- Ultimate International Travel Packing List
- Navigating the Bamako, Mali, airport (and general TOTAL NEWB travel advice!)
- Protecting your electronics & data while traveling
- What North American tinctures do you pack for a year in West Africa?
- Selfcare in a Concrete Box (life under curfew)
- How to Pack a Gob-Bag (life under fire)
- Free online Humanitarian aid resources and trainings (regularly updated)
New posts will be added to the Resources page of this blog.