After my 4 years in the Peace Corps and graduate school, the pull of going back overseas and working in the humanitarian field was too strong. So was born my 10 plus years working for international relief organizations. I worked in Pakistan, The Philippines, and the four corners of Africa.
I made friends with fellow aid workers from all over the globe and to this day, the decade of experience drove me to find work that made me feel better about myself by attempting to do good for others. It was our job to show up during an international crisis and help out the best we can.
It does not come without stress and bureaucracy. No organization, no matter how altruistically it is perceived, is immune to procedures and politics. Not only is one placed in a completely foreign world at a culture’s most vulnerable time, but there is also paper work and company policies to follow.
“…relief” is my satirical therapy and homage to the work I did in the logistics department for the 4 separate humanitarian agencies that I worked with from 2004 to 2012. Being in logistics is like working back stage in the theater of international relief. The doctors, nurses, and food security experts get all the credit while we logistics folks are the ones who are the first to arrive and set up and the last ones to leave.
As someone who previously enjoyed being in the spotlight, this was hard for me at first, but as I grew in my role in logistics and learned more what it meant to be part of a team, I enjoyed being a support to the technical experts, and did much to advocate the importance that logistics brought to every mission I worked.
As an expat, I also learned that I was also the de-facto ambassador to my country. Compared to the Peace Corps (which was a U.S. government organization), several times I was in missions where I was the only U.S. citizen. In many conversations I was asked why “we” did certain things or acted certain ways. There was also some times where, for security reasons, I said I was from Canada.
I am proud to say that I have made lasting friendships with people from over 50 countries and with the magic of the internet; it has been easy to keep in contact. Also on the occasional sleepless night, I know someone is always awake I can reach out to and have a conversation.
Peace Corps may have taught me to be curious, humble, and adventurous; but the time I spent working with Action Against Hunger, Medicins Du Monde, Merlin, and Doctors Without Borders, gave me a nonprofit career that allowed me to see the world, meet caring people, and taught me true empathetic leadership skills.
This series is dedicated to all of my colleagues.