18 comments on “5 Part Series: Becoming an Aid Worker

    • Thanks Stephen for your feedback and for the resource link- very helpful.

      I absolutely think there are more reasons why people romanticize aid work (possibly the subject for a separate post?), including, as you say, the way aid orgs market themselves and their staff (after all, how often do you see a local Malian aid worker given a double-spread in a donor magazine vis-a-vis an Australian one…?) Maybe it’s a hangover from missionary days, colonial tales of [mis]adventure, Kipling and Stanley, and the rest. Coupled with a good and very healthy human tendency in many people to help one another.

      Worth exploring. Thanks for your thoughts. 🙂

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  3. Pingback: Becoming an Aid Worker, Part 4. What Do You Want to Do? « WanderLust

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  8. I guess it really kind of depends on what one’s understanding of the scope of “humanitarian aid” is.

    Are the only people worthy of aid those who belong to a specific “impoverished” demographic? What metrics does this group have to be inside of? Is there any tolerance for falling out of adherence?

    And what does “humanitarian aid” mean? This would definitely include the providing of various essential corporeal needs. But I would also argue that it should include the very real necessity of love. Like, someone communicating, “Hey, I think you’re worth going out of the way for.” It can be a thousand miles, across town, or down six office doors. You can give a crate of food to someone, but they can tell if you’re doing it because your a hired gun, or because you have a heart for their restoration. Same applies to situations with a co-worker, friend, spouse, etc. Is it being done as a requirement, or because you are concerned about their well-being?

    I do also fully acknowledge the wisdom of Ghandi in his quote, “There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”

    But all things considered, I would argue that everyone fits into the “impoverished” demographic and is in need–often desperately–of one or more things that give and sustain life. In this light, humanitarian aid can then be doled out to your co-worker, checker at the store, or wherever. The trade of universal humanitarian aid is one that can be plied wherever there are people.

    Some times, people just need some good news.

  9. Pingback: What is an Aid Worker and How do I Become One? | The Out Post

  10. I do believe all the ideas you have introduced to your post. They are really convincing and will certainly work. Nonetheless, the posts are too quick for novices. May just you please lengthen them a little from next time? Thanks for the post.

    • Dear Spambot “Shop From Us”,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. This is probably the first time in history I’ve been asked to write a longer post. Being too hasty is not often something I am confused of.


      Morealtitude, also known as Verbose.

  11. Hi

    I am a South African and I really want to become an aid worker. I already dosome volunteer work through out my school year. I have to decide what I want to go study after school. I was thinking of sosiology? Would that help me get a job in this field?

    • Hi Lara, thanks for your message and great that you want to get into the aid industry. I think the thing to bear in mind with aid work as a career is what I highlight here- agencies look for a balance of things in an aid worker- relevant experience, relevant qualifications, the right personality- and increasingly, professional competency too. So absolutely, a degree in something like sociology is going to move you in the right direction- though it won’t ever be enough on its own. It’s great that you’re in SA- there are heaps of NGOs operating there, and loads of relevant field work opportunities right on your doorstep. I’d say if you’re genuinely keen to work in this industry, get as much experience (voluntary, and if you can, paid work with local NGOs too) and networking time (get sent to NGO meetings, get to know NGO staffers in your area) as you can throughout your study period. I’d suggest you ask yourself what type of ‘aid work’ you want to get into, and what sort of job you want to do with them. Broad degrees like sociology, social work, geography, even development studies- unfortunately these are all quite common, so to get employment in an aid agency you need to make yourself stand out somehow (i.e. really relevant experience, a master’s degree, etc.). On the other hand if you knew you wanted to do medical aid work, or get into logistics, you can specialize a little more. I guess it comes down to what you want to do and what your vision is. Try and get a bit more NGO experience, see how they operate, and figure out where you think you fit. Finally I’d say great that you do voluntary work- but when you do this sort of work, be as strategic as you can be. If, for example, you know that you want to work in emergency response work, then doing voluntary work at a local HIV/AIDS clinic probably won’t move you very far in the right direction (it won’t hurt, but it won’t get you all the way). On the other hand if you can connect to an organization that gets more involved in malnutrition, or food distribution, or something a bit more emergency-focused, that could give you a hand. If you get the chance to do some work cross-border, say in Zim or Mozambique, there’s loads of stuff going on out there that could be relevant and would boost your CV points as well. You’re in a great geographical location compared to most prospective aid workers I speak to, so try and make the most of that, be strategic, get some good contacts, and good luck! 🙂

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  13. Hi,

    This must seem a cliche to you , but neverthless have been perusing the net far and wide for some answers and this i feel is the most likeliest place i could get a good answer from. Sorry for the theatricalicty- I am a bit sleepy.

    I am from India. I am a computer science engineer with nearly 4 years of experience in the IT services industry. You might classify me as the HEARTBROKEN motive type from that satirical movie/book i forgot the name of. I realised at the age of 23 that i cant have kids. Did not mention it as a sob story but the situation kind of directed me to a pah of introspection. After a great long time trying to find a purpose to my life, i decided on taking up International Aid as a profession. It is not an impulsive decision. I was always a people person, some one who friends/family look up for advice, a problem solver . I have seen and experienced some heart wrenching scenes of utmost poverty and have tried my best to alleviate whatever i could.

    I would like to dedicate whatever is left of my life to empowering and sharing whatever i learned with the needy while making a modest living out of it. I understand that this might sound to you as a very naive statement to make. But, could you help me transition into such a career?? Any advice, any remarks, any criticisms about attitude welcomed with an open mind.

    Again sorry if i sounded a tad too smug or tried to lighten up the mood one too many times, it is just because i am feeling sleepy.


  14. I am only seventeen, but I want this career path more than anything and I have for a while. I am desperate to find an entry to being an aid-worker and I would appreciate any help to move foward to do that.

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