Sometimes, my job is incredibly uplifting and brilliant and I love it. Like the time in the Philippines when every single person in the village wanted to thank me and shake my hand, leaving my hand literally rubbed raw with good wishes from about 600 people…. Or the time I met a young mother with the best smile in the world after she received a cash transfer to help fix her roof.
But sometimes, being an aid worker is hard. Not just gruelling, tiring, exhausting and difficult. Not just because sometimes you’re in a war zone and there’s no electricity and it’s 46 degrees, and you’re sweating so much you wake up three or four times in the night because you’re so thirsty.
No, the hardest part for me is the emotional trauma. Sometimes in this job, even when you are safe in your bubble at headquarters, you hear stories that you cannot unhear, and they haunt you for days. As a naturally empathetic person myself, it’s hard not to be affected sometimes by the brutal tales coming from war zones, conflict and remote areas, and to feel quite deeply affected by those stories. What’s more challenging is that I can’t easily talk about these things with my friends and family, because if these things keep me lying awake at night, I don’t want to bring that kind of horror into the minds of my closest friends or relatives. Not to mention the fact that when visiting friends and family for a fun Christmas holiday, or a rare night out on the town, it’s almost never an appropriate time to start talking about the horrors of war and rape. It’s a massive downer and will almost always spoil the mood and make people uncomfortable.
Now don’t worry or panic here, let me reassure you that we have access to counselling and mental health support at work, so it’s not like there is no one to talk to, and many of my colleagues are good friends that I can talk to, so this blog post is not a desperate cry for help or any such thing. Sometimes I just find it helpful to write things down as a way of processing them. So instead of laying it onto the shoulders of my friends and family, I’m going to put some of the worst and saddest stories I’ve heard recently down here, in my blog, as a cathartic way of talking about them. So think carefully about whether or not you want to read the rest of this post.
Be warned – there are some pretty graphic and awful things in this post, so I will leave it up to you if you want to read on or not. Those of you who decide to read the rest of this post, you might want to have some fun, light-hearted kitten videos lined up on Youtube to cheer you up afterwards…. Continue reading