Aid workers: These are your life options …

A friend of mine sent me the deeply satirical text you find below. However, it’s not  far from the truth and I couldn’t resist sharing it …

You’re an aid worker with 10+ years experience under your belt. You earn a pittance but it works for you because you are non-resident at home so you don’t pay tax, you are catered for on assignment so you don’t pay rent,and your mortgage is covered by the people renting your place because you are never there. You can’t hold down a relationship for more than 3 months and you secretly know that despite what you tell him/her it’s really not because you’re only ever there for 3 months… it’s because you can’t live without the independence.

UN convoy in Chad; UN Photo/Olivia Grey Pritchard

UN convoy in Chad; UN Photo/Olivia Grey Pritchard

Things are ok now but you’re approaching 40. What should you do? What does the future hold? Are you one of the new world order of aid worker gypsies?

Welcome to your future – these are your life options:


Option 1. You go back to a headquarters job. Instead of doing what you want to do, you now advise people who are doing what you used to do. You earn the same more or less as you did before, but your costs of living shoot skywards because you’re now paying tax, rent/mortgage and utilities…

You consider sharing accommodation and, bingo, you’re a student again and like a student can’t afford to do 1% of the things you think you would like to do.

Option 2. You go work for the UN. Keep the job you love and the lifestyle that goes with it. Your salary jumps to levels that used to get you all riled up after a few drinks back when you used to work for “honest”  down-to-earth INGOs. Now you’re cynical about them all and aggressively defend your need to raise a nest egg to plough the way for the family/dog/cottage/brats you’re planning. You’ve done your bit after all. You do this for a while before you realize you sacrificed every dream you ever had in this work and can no longer look yourself in the mirror.

Option 3. You find something suitable in the commercial sector and live happily ever after. This only happens to 1/10,000 aid workers and if you’re a logistician, forget it.

Option 4. You retrain and change course. You take a massive pay cut. Your skills and experience in aid work go unused and unappreciated. You marry someone who will never fully understand where you are coming from and why you are quiet for long periods of time. If you haven’t left it too late to have kids, just remember – dysfunctional.

Option 5. You write your memoirs and someone makes a movie out of it starring Leonardo De Caprio / Angelina Jolie. You become an even more arrogant git, lose all your friends, and make a lot of cash. This only  happens to 1/100,000 aid workers and will definitely not happen to you!

Option 6. You become that lonely, jaded expat sat at the bar in some third world piss pot letching over young locals and making snide remarks.

Option 7. You decide to set up home but not in your own country. Forget moving back to London, Paris, New York, Munich but head for the Balkan Adriatic or one of the emerging Eastern European States before the property developers get there, and develop a serious liver problem.

Option 8. You hit the road along with thousands of your cohorts with visions of huge bands of ex-aid worker families roaming the European countryside in caravans, plastered with “No guns on board” stickers and of course pulled by white Toyota Land Cruiser hardtops and pickups, scratching out a life by erecting latrines and living under plastic sheeting. You take stock count of everything you come across….. and from time-to-time you seek charity.


  1. Fiona April 14, 2010
  2. mbb April 16, 2010
  3. Nicola April 18, 2010
  4. Harriet April 18, 2010
  5. Dule April 20, 2010
  6. NGO's (elderly) mum April 20, 2010
  7. marina April 21, 2010
    • Timo April 21, 2010
    • Conor April 29, 2010
    • dflower October 27, 2011
  8. Peter April 23, 2010
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  10. Guest April 26, 2010
  11. tom April 28, 2010
  12. Nicola Reiss April 29, 2010
    • Timoluege April 29, 2010
  13. Christina April 30, 2010
  14. david May 17, 2010
  15. Stallyktan May 27, 2010
  16. Nishan June 25, 2010
  17. Cedric ROUSSEL August 18, 2010
  18. George September 30, 2010
  19. me- October 1, 2010
  20. Vikas Goyal November 24, 2010
  21. Grumpy Owl December 10, 2010
    • miriam March 26, 2011
  22. bsk October 26, 2011
  23. Hasan siyat October 28, 2011
  24. hassan siyat October 28, 2011
    • Timo Luege October 29, 2011
  25. Eirik Jarl Trondsen November 1, 2011
  26. A clean break November 1, 2011
  27. Alina February 4, 2012
  28. PEACE BAYOH February 20, 2012
  29. Leonardo da Vinci October 8, 2012
  30. On with the mission October 8, 2012
  31. juliet.p February 27, 2014
  32. Timoluege February 27, 2014
    • guest44555 February 28, 2014
      • Timoluege March 6, 2014
    • Joakim May 5, 2014
  33. LC February 27, 2014
  34. julie February 27, 2014
  35. Juliane February 27, 2014
  36. James February 28, 2014
  37. Observer March 1, 2014
    • Georges_Kanoute April 23, 2014
  38. Livingstone2004 March 2, 2014
  39. Grai March 3, 2014
  40. Georges_Kanoute April 23, 2014
  41. Georges_Kanoute April 23, 2014
  42. geko March 3, 2016