What is an Aid Worker and How do I Become One?

Posted by on November 4th, 2011

Photo via MoreAltitude

MOST PEOPLE looking for a career that is both meaningful and includes world travel will have at least toyed with the idea of becoming an aid worker. After all, aid workers — or at least our perception of aid workers — get to go to exotic locations, have daring adventures, and help people, maybe even save a few lives.

For those seriously considering becoming a professional humanitarian, allow me to suggest MoreAltitude’s five part series on aid work.

Aid Work: A Guide

  1. Becoming an Aid Worker
  2. Aid Work is a Profession
  3. Experience, Education and Personality
  4. Where do you Fit? 
  5. Count the Cost

MoreAltitude is the blog of a semi-anonymous aid worker who says he works for a international charity that supports emergency relief work. A brief perusal of his blog shows a deep grasp of humanitarian issues to backup his claim.

As I have said before, finding information on becoming an aid worker can be confusing. It is often unclear what degrees are needed and what experience is required or even what exactly aid workers do. In his guide, MoreAltitude touches on each of these questions and provides helpful resources. His series is one of the best I have found on the subject.

He tackles difficult issues with both honesty and in some cases humor. His Day in the Life of an Aid Worker article is both soul crushing in it’s depiction of bureaucratic nightmares and chuckle worthy when he describes an unfortunate run in with bad curry.

His willingness to share both triumph and frustration set his guide apart from others. He does not hide the fact that the reality of aid work is harsh. It requires long hours of hard work, often with little reward. Those moments when smiling children welcoming you and your truck of medical supplies to their village are rare, if they exist at all.

Perhaps then, it is no surprise that his links to job boards and further reading come only at the end of the guide. In the last section, He cautions idealists to strongly consider what they are getting into.

“Aid work is an intoxicating, exciting and richly rewarding career. When it works. Often it doesn’t. Often things like politics, corruption, violence, interpersonal relationships, or sheer incompetence means that things fall apart. Things, like projects designed to save peoples lives. This can shake the strongest of people. When people are driven by values and a belief in the greater good of humankind, watching this sort of failure can leave them deeply wounded. I’ve known of it costing people their faith in humanity and in God.”

There is little romance in aid work, this much he makes clear. Still, many people are aware of this and continue to pursue the career. For them, this guide will be a valuable resource. It addresses not only the how but the why (and the why not) of becoming an aid worker.

Even if the information is not new to the reader, MoreAltitude’s perspective and insight into the humanitarian industry is not to be missed. Becoming an aid worker is not easy. The job market is crowded, the requirements aren’t always clear, and once you get a job, nothing less than your life and sanity are on the line.

If you want a bunch of inspiring stories about people who changed the world, look elsewhere. If you want a real look at the humanitarian industry, this is it.

One thought on “What is an Aid Worker and How do I Become One?

  1. Faith

    It may be costly,demanding and not paying but saving at least one life brings so much satisfaction and great happiness. God bless you


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