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So you want to be a humanitarian?

February 1, 2016

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Jake Meeks is a humanitarian aid worker with a resume that includes managing procurement, administration, and logistics for aid agencies in Africa, the Middle East, and Central America. His blog ‘Aid Without A Cause‘ is something folks looking to get a start in this line of work should read. Here’s a taste of one of his recent posts – read the rest here.

I hate the term aid worker. Though it is still used. And the term humanitarian? Not so sure about that because it could be anyone. As for international development worker….well no because that implies you’re working outside of your own country…..which isn’t always or even generally true.

Terms are important because they color how we think. People are even more important. In any discussion of industry or a sector I believe that you should start with the people in that industry or sector and what they are. So that’s what I’m going to attempt to do in two parts. Along the way I’ll need to define some terms. But first, let me tell you a story.

I got my bachelor’s degree in business. In retrospect I would have gone to film school. Or majored in history. But at the time I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I had some half-baked scheme of trying to get into the movie business by doing logistics for a movie set, hence my business degree in logistics. And the VA (Veteran’s Administration) would pay for it. So cool.

I was an angry lad though. I was pissed off at my country for going to wars I didn’t believe in. I was pissed off at my culture because it would focus more on Kim Kardashian’s ass then the fact we were in two wars. I was pissed off at my people, my generation, because all I felt that emanated from them was this overwhelming sense of apathy about the world and our country’s role in it.

So I got my business degree and I decided I couldn’t go work for a business. It just wasn’t in me, my primary focus would be making money and as long as I have food, shelter and a bit left over, I don’t give a shit about money. I didn’t want that to be the central purpose of my life. That, and I figured I’d probably hit somebody. I figured I’d meet some hotshot who didn’t know shit about the real world and was motivated by self-glorification and money and that would piss me off. So I would punch him. Or he would punch me, whatever.

I went and got my master’s instead. Then I found my way to the NGO world. Man told me, “There’s three types of people in the aid world: missionaries, mercenaries and misfits, which one are you?” Well there is nothing in my bones that goes and spreads any kind of word of God of any religion, so it ain’t missionary. I don’t give enough of a shit about money to be a mercenary. Guess that leaves one choice.”

Read the rest of Jake’s post at Aid Without A Cause.

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