52 things you will never hear an aid worker say
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52 things you will never hear an aid worker say

52 things you will never hear an aid worker say

By Laurie Phillips, Brendan Rigby, Allison Smith, and Weh Yeoh

Over a year ago, we gave you 52 reasons to date an aid worker. It remains one of our most popular posts, and maybe it convinced you that an aid worker would make a great romantic partner. If so, you should know right now that there are some things you will never hear from their lips.

      1. “It was great to get such a stable, fulfilling job with full benefits right after finishing my degree.”
      2. “Angelina Jolie needs more credit for her role in raising awareness of international adoptions.”
      3. “The project I’m working on is going really smoothly. I think it will be finished ahead of schedule.”
      4. “I don’t think taking up a missionary position is a bad idea at all.”
      5. “Africa is a country.”
      6. “Volunteering in orphanages is a good way to gain field experience.”
      7. “We should not be sending aid to ‘bongo bongo land’.”
      8. “Nick Kristof’s skills are wasted as a reporter.”
      9. “No, my parents fully support my career decisions.”
      10. “I always donate to charity.Jolie
      11. “Leave Bono alone!”
      12. “I’m a virgin.”
      13. “KONY 2012 was a revolution that will define our generation.”
      14. “I don’t mind Nescafe.”
      15. “I’m here to make a difference.”
      16. “I am very strict with myself in taking doxycycline everyday.”
      17. “I just can’t believe how many single, attractive men work in aid.”
      18. “Economic growth is the only way to lift people out of poverty!”
      19. “We need more music concerts to raise more awareness!”
      20. “I have never sung Toto’s Africa out loud while dancing in the rain.”sattractive
      21. “Toto’s Africa really captures the primordial, tribal soul of Africa and its people.”
      22. “Inter-agency working groups is where we get work done!”
      23. “I’ve never read Emergency Sex. What is it about?”
      24. “The report was very well-written, in clear and plain language.”
      25. “We just have so many funding options that I don’t know where to start!”
      26. “You know what? You are so spot on. I do just find my job rewarding.”
      27. “I probably wouldn’t be much better off I had studied neurosurgery like my brother.”
      28. “I’m looking to buy an investment property.”
      29. “Our organisation gave us all iPhones last year so we are forced to use them.”
      30. “The air-conditioning in our field office is simply delightful.”airplane
      31. “I’m a Republican.”
      32. “I quite enjoy the challenges of long distance relationships when I’m on the road.”
      33. “You know – you’re right. As a stockbroker, you do help to heal the world too, in your own way.”
      34. “If you haven’t read Dambisa Moyo, you haven’t fully discovered the comprehensive compendium on why aid isn’t working.”
      35. “I’m more than happy that we underspent our grant money and will gratefully return it to the donors.”
      36. “I’d be happy to volunteer to man the stall for our NGO this weekend. I didn’t have any other plans.”
      37. “I think our director just puts too much money into professional development.”
      38. “I’m just happy for my ex-colleague who switched across from our small NGO to work with that well-funded government aid agency. Good for her.”
      39. “Sometimes I think the Washington Consensus was too quickly dismissed.”
      40. “Everything I was told about this country before I moved here was incredibly accurate.”
      41. “I’ve definitely cut back on drinking since I started working in development.”horsedrunk
      42. “We don’t have enough interns!”
      43. “No, no karaoke for me.”
      44. “Voluntourism really is the key to sustainable development!”
      45. “I think I will refuse to accept a per diem for this field trip.”
      46. “Let’s get a consultant in to sort out this mess we have created.”
      47. “Just for a change, why don’t we try open plan offices this year?”
      48. “The accuracy with which our comms team has captured the work we really do is simply amazing.”
      49. “Overheads are important, guys. We just need to keep them down, okay?”
      50. “We have a paid Skype account at our office.”
      51. “The inter-agency cooperation in Haiti is a world class model of how collaborative development should work.”
      52. “I’ve never had a crush on any of the WhyDev team members.”

Anything else you’re sure an aid worker would never say? Let us know in the comments.

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WhyDev Team

The WhyDev writing team consists of Brendan, Megan, Zoe and Clemency. Check out more about the team on the "About Us" page.

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32 thoughts on “52 things you will never hear an aid worker say

  1. Izzy

    This reeks of typical aid workers who think they are doing a better job than everyone else in ‘helping others’. Get over yourselves, please. I’m an aid worker, (although I don’t like the term) and feel that apparently hilariously accurate and painfully sarcastic articles like this give the sector a bad name. Cheers for that.

  2. Great! Although I’m embarrassed to say I scored yes on 11 (cause of that Pride song), 14, 16, 18 (at least I think it’s necessary in countries with low GDP) 19, 39 (aspects of), and 49…

  3. “i’m so excited to use the squat latrines because I haven’t peed on my feet so far today.”

  4. “Recruiting people into MLM schemes is THE way to make THEM rich!”

  5. SK

    Hahaha! This was wonderful. Thank you for bringing the humour.

  6. GreekTurk

    I really enjoyed that Country Team meeting with our UN colleagues in their glitzy out-of-town compound… and that cappuccino they offered us was really delicious!

  7. expataidwrkr

    Our R&R schedule is too generous, I’d prefer that my organisation space them out and put the extra money toward program delivery.

    I just love it when the evaluation team comes to visit.

    This aspiring aid worker’s blog post has really made me sit up and take notice of a fundamental principle of effective aid delivery that had never occurred to me before.

  8. Paulette Lee

    These are hysterical! And I’m international development — a widow in my mid-60’s looking for love. My only disagreement is with: “I don’t mind Nescafe”. It’s only when you do say that — and you will if you’re in a tea-drinking country long enough — that you know you’ve truly been assimilated into the profession!

  9. […] Over a year ago, we gave you 52 reasons to date an aid worker. It remains one of our most popular posts, and maybe it convinced you that an aid worker would make a great romantic partner. If so, you should know right now that there are some things you will never hear from their lips. Read more at: http://www.whydev.org […]

  10. “Bad drivers? Public transportation is 100% safe, especially if you sit in the front seat.”

    1. I prefer travelling in the comfort of a white land rover with AC.

  11. Tanya

    The fundraising “ask” is absolutely my favorite part of the job.

    1. It is what gets you up in the morning Tanya.

  12. “It’s about time we started listening to beneficiaries a little less”

    “I’ve seen what rival NGO/donor is doing and it turns out it is a combination of panacea and magic bullet”

    1. Right? Too much listening, not enough action.

  13. Sarah

    Oh no, aid worker isn’t the right term for my job. The correct term is project manager/other normal job title/volunteer. I don’t like being called an aid worker, especially as I work in development, not humanitarian aid, and I mostly sit in an office doing very little.

    1. Humanitarian? Or how about charity worker?

  14. Thizzle

    “Sure, I would love to be paid in the local currency”.

    1. I hear the Ghanaian Cedi is strong against the US$.

    2. David Jesson

      Awesome- LMBO

  15. ABDK

    No, the aid worker community in this country is not highly incestuous.

  16. Nellie

    “Oh you’re here for a two week volunteer project? That’s great, you’re really making a big contribution in resolving this country’s problems.”

    1. I’m sure we’ve all said this to a volunteer but dripping with sarcasm.

      1. David

        Brendan, you are unworthy of such cynicism. The organizations that you are involved with rely heavily on volunteers as do most not-for-profits. One could argue that a volunteer on a two week project is nothing more than a money making exercise for the organizations- exploitation of well meaning people who in your eyes delude themselves that they are making a contribution whilst you get on with your vitally important work. How good are you at assesssing the contribution you make?
        For those interested in aid and development a short term volunteer position is the proverbial ‘foot in the door’ as Carolyn says. I have done it and was under no illusions as to the value of my input. I then went on to become a director of that not-for-profit and I hope make a greater contribution.
        If volunteers on short term assignment are a waste of time then that is a problem for the sector to solve. Denegration of those who keep most originisations going is a cheap shot.

        1. I’ve been a volunteer a number of times at different organisations, and this is perhaps a shot at myself. I know how tough it is for those trying to get a foot in the door because I had to go through volunteering and internships. I still question the contribution I make to organisations as a paid employee; and overall of the aid/development system itself. However, you can be discretionary about how you choose to volunteer and where. http://www.whydev.org/voluntourism-what-you-need-to-know-before-signing-up/

          I think we are just blowing off steam here about voluntourism, rather than volunteering for NGOs per se David. But I do appreciate your criticism. It is easy to be cynical, but sometimes we need a bit of attempted humour to keep sane.

    2. Carolyn

      I work in international development, and I get the frustrations of short volunteer projects. However, that exposure, even if short, may give someone that spark and make them decide to start up a career in that field. We all know that even if you spend years in one country it takes time for change (doesn’t matter the country). I know you’re trying to be funny, but be kind to those who choose to spend their money to spend a few weeks on a volunteer project. However, if they have the attitude that they’re “saving” people, give them a big slap across the face.

      1. I appreciate what you are saying Carolyn. I’ve been that volunteer, many times, and so this is also self-deprecating humour. However, it also has serious undertones. We have to be more conscious and more aware of how we choose to volunteer; to spend money and time. Volunteering can be a harmful practice and is not necessarily inherently good.

        I wrote previously, and more seriously, on this here:

    3. nick

      that’s just ignorant to turn away someone’s volunteer efforts as second class…be ashamed of yourself

  17. – “Someone call the police”
    – “Do up your seatbelt”
    – “That mattress was the most comfortable thing I have ever slept on”

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