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The Great Food Experiment

October 30, 2016

Bear with me – it’s rare indeed that I use this platform to plug something unrelated to relief and development jobs, but this is something I’ve been doing in my ‘other’ career! It would help me out if you were able to take a look at this video I shot for a local magazine and ‘like’ it on their YouTube channel!

Hey – you might even like it! Thanks!


Surviving violent environments?

October 10, 2016

So, I was questioning some life-choices this month as I pulled out my books relating to security in violent environments. I thought I’d give you a run-down (in no particular order) on my favorite guides to not getting murdered, kidnapped, or have your day ruined in some other way.

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-10-10-40-amOperational Security Management in Violent Environments – Humanitarian Practice Network

The revised (2010) edition of the classic ‘GPR 8’ is the standard manual for INGO security in the field. It’s heavily policy focussed, but should give you a good idea of how organizations manage safety and security strategies, and what to expect from an organization that you might be working for. It does contain some useful tips on personal security as well. You can download the PDF free from the HPN website – I couldn’t find any print copies at reasonable prices, although there are always tons of them kicking around INGO offices.

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-10-08-08-amStay safe – The International Federation’s guide to a safer mission – IFRC

Another classic work, this time from the IFRC, who have a slightly different take to most agencies. This is a pretty good mix of theory and personal safety tips, again a free download.

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-9-57-57-amHow to Avoid Being Killed in a War Zone: The Essential Survival Guide for Dangerous Places – Rosie Garthwaite

While it focusses on some of the most extreme cases, this is a very practical book, with a lot of advice for independent travelers and people wanting more information on personal security. It’s an interesting read that I would recommend to anyone regardless of their travel plans.

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-9-58-39-amCome Back Alive – Robert Young Pelton

While some of the content in this one is hyperbolic, some of it inaccurate, and some of it not relevant to prospective aid workers, it has enough useful tips to make it onto my recommendation list.


I’ll leave you with a nice BBC article that is focussed more on journalists here, and please let me know if there are other books or resources that should be on the list, and stay safe out there!

Ask your medical questions!

September 20, 2016

No – not about your health – I’ve lined up an interview with a recruiter from Doctors Without Borders next week, and this is your chance to ask them anything you want about volunteering, working, and anything else about medical organizations in humanitarian aid!

Put your questions as comments to this post, and I’ll post the interview next week!

Pay and conditions in relief and development

September 14, 2016

Q. Hi Nick

I have a few questions.

My first one is how much is the average salary? Could I support a family off that money?

My second question is whether it is a full time job?

Lastly, do you get to choose where you want to work, or is it assigned?

A. Hi there – and thanks for the questions!

First. I have no idea how to calculate what an ‘average’ salary in this line of work is. It varies hugely depending on whether you are a volunteer or paid staff, UN, NGO or contractor, local or international, etc, etc. That said. I’m going to give a ballpark of what a US or UK expatriate is going to make working for a medium to large UK or US organization. Project managers might be making anywhere from $25-$35k, while senior managers might be making anywhere from $50k-north of $100k. This is exclusive of any other health / housing benefits.

Second – most field based jobs and most HQ jobs are full time.

Lastly, in most organizations you can, to some extent, choose to apply for where you want to work. That said, there is an informal hierarchy, and more competition for more desirable posts. As an entry level job-seeker you really have to go where the jobs are.

Hope that helps!


Job posting: Field Director

September 6, 2016

From time to time I get organizations wanting to post positions here, and I’m happy to pass them on. Please note that I have no personal experience with this organization and have not vetted this ad in any way!

Field Director, Team Leader, Greece

Project Hope 4 Kids is a non – governmental, humanitarian organization working to help refugees by creating sustainable projects in the field as well as gathering and distributing aid to the displaced populations in Greece.

Millions of people have been forced to flee their homes by conflict and crisis than at any time since World War II. When the EU borders closed in March 2016, this caused 55,000+ refugees to be stranded in Greece for an indefinite period of time. Thousands and thousands are now living and waiting in government run military camps throughout Greece. Project Hope 4 Kids is providing much needed relief in one of these camps in Greece. We have been working in this particular camp full time since mid – June 2016 where we provide an art therapy program and daily activities for the 200+ children in the camp as well as help run the school program for the children by partnering with the teachers in the camp and teaching the English lessons on a day to day basis.

We are now looking for a full time Field Director and Team Leader for this camp in Greece. Positions of this kind are competitive and hard to come by. This is a tremendous way to obtain hands on field experience in a dynamic and ever changing environment and can lead to amazing opportunities for career growth. You will be working directly in the field and will obtain the experience of a lifetime. We offer a small monthly stipend for this position. If you meet the criteria below and you are passionate, strong, a self starter, determined and most importantly have an immense compassion for the refugee crisis, then please apply by emailing your experience + resume to Erin @

We are also very interested in applicants who would like to do their practicum or internship with us. Project Hope 4 Kids will work closely with your University program to make sure your objectives and goals are met and at the same time give you direct, hands on field experience that is crucial for advancement in this type of field.

Job Description:

  • Capacity to understand and carry out our projects by discovering, researching and continuing to improve our focuses in our camp by working cohesively within the camp along with other key organizations and the military.
  • Teach and instruct our school program in partnership with the teachers
  • Coordinate the day to day art activities with the children
  • Continue the art program for the children by showing strong leadership skills and the ability to take on numerous tasks simultaneously
  • Work alongside and support and empower the residential teachers by providing them resources and teaching the english classes on a daily basis
  • Involve and inform local authorities about the activities and insure all projects are in line with national regulations.
  • Be able to show through weekly reports and photographs the success or improvements that are needed in our projects

Field Director, Team Leader, Greece

• Supervise, train and develop incoming volunteers Qualifications:

  • Undergraduate degree required from a University
  • 2+ month commitment
  • Prefer a Masters or entering the Masters field in humanitarian, public health or crisis work or related field.
  • Be able to show documented results related to the positions responsibilities
  • Knowledge about own leadership and skills
  • Fluency in English, both written and verbal. Knowledge or fluency in additional languages is an advantage.
  • Demonstrated behavior that is professional, ethical, and responsible
  • Ability to perform a variety of tasks, often changing assignments on short notice with little to no direction and be able to manage a very stressful environment.
  • Start Date October 10th approximately

    For additional information about Project Hope 4 Kids, you can find us on Facebook @ “ProjectHope4Kids”.

Education and languages for NGO workers

August 16, 2016
Q. Hello Nick
Thank you for your great article, I have recently graduated from high school and I am very interested in working in the ngo section (certainly with the UN) , I am wondering about two questions, would be very grateful if you are able to give me your opinion.
1- do you think it makes sense to take a volunteer trip abroad before starting my bachelor degree to have more insight into the ngo and humanitarian sector?
2- how many languages are enough to get you a competitive candidate? I speak fluent English and Arabic and currently learning German and French ( hopefully I will be fluent before finishing my university degree)
A. Hi Elhassan,
Thanks for the questions. With regard to the first, ‘yes’. The second is more complicated. The UN has six official languages – you speak two of them, and are learning a third. That’s definitely an advantage for UN recruitment, although you will want to read my article on getting a job with the UN, and check out the massive resources available on this daunting topic.
When we’re talking about organizations other than the UN, it really only matters whether you speak a language that is relevant to the country you’re going to. Arabic is great, but no use if you’re in Honduras.
Good luck!

Help starving families in the Marine Corps?

June 25, 2016

Q. Dear Nick,
I’m going into the Marine Corps after my senior year ends. I’m looking into becoming a medic. My goal is to make care packages with food, medicine and clothes, have them sent out to wherever I’m deployed come next year and go to local villages with starving families. Provide some help even if it means changing people’s live one at a time. Is their anything in the military such as programs or relief groups that would allow me to do this. If not then how can I serve this movement while still being in the military? Thank you and have a good day.


A. Dear Axel,

First off, thanks for your question. You sound like a serious and compassionate young man, and I wish you well in what ever you do next. I’m going to give you some frank advice on this though. 😉

Your question makes me wonder whether you have any idea what the Marine Corps is. Even as a medic, you will not be making care packages for starving people. The mission of the infantry is to close with and destroy the enemy, hearts and minds campaigns notwithstanding. I suggest you take a look at the movies Restrepo and Korengal for some relatively sobering depictions of what infantry deployments are like these days.

There’s nothing wrong with joining the Marine Corps – there is a need for smart, thoughtful and compassionate people on the frontlines of America’s military engagements, and I have been very grateful at times to be on the right side of US military intervention, but it’s not the Peace Corps.

That said, there are parts of the military that work very closely with the State  Department and other organizations to carry out aid programs, largely in the service of counter-insurgency programs. You might be able to find your way into this kind of unit, but I’m not optimistic. I guess my advice is, if you go into the Marines, go because you want to join the Marines, not because you want to make the Marine Corps the Peace Corps.

Good luck!


PS. The Marines are not my area of expertise – I’d love anyone with more relevant experience on this to weigh in on opportunities for this kind of service within the armed forces – thanks!

Thanks to Alex for this comment “Would also note that the US Marine Corps does not even have its own medics—the medical personnel who serve with Marines are actually from the US Navy. I would encourage this young man to do a lot more research overall.

If this site is as useful to you as a book you might have paid for please consider buying my Kindle eBook, which contains much of the content from this site, thoughtfully formatted for off-line reading on a Kindle, iPad, laptop, or other e-reader. It’s $7.99, and honestly, what can you get for that these days? Get it here.

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