Brené Brown & the Power of Vulnerability

In aidspeak, ‘vulnerability’ is almost always a negative word. It denotes weakness, fragility,  a heightened possiblity of something or someone being in danger or at risk, unsafe or unprotected. It is something to be guarded against, mitigated, planned for; we often talk or (moreso) write about how our programs will ‘target vulnerable populations’ or ‘reduce vulnerability.’ We show donors and security officers how we recognize existing vulnerabilities and have made plans to keep ourselves and our staff safe.

This is not the fault of the aid world. Merriam-Webster defines vulnerability as meaning “easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally” or “open to attack, harm, or damage.”  A quick scan of other online dictionaries did not turn up any indication of Continue reading

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Back from the borderlands

AM photo 1

This post is written by an anonymous contributor.

It is difficult to write about ending a mission while on mission. It is difficult to write about taking a break when the breaks one is able to take are too short to notice, too quick to be able to unwind. Working in isolated and dangerous locations takes a toll on a person’s body and mind. We come here to help people, but forget about taking care of ourselves.

I am guilty of this, of not making time to rest and re-energise. I think this is important, even in the midst of a demanding mission. It makes it easier for us to re-enter “normal” society after the mission is over, to meaningfully reconnect with those we love and who love us. I have been continuously working in so-called “deep field” locations for the pastseven years, with fluctuating levels of remoteness and insecurity. I count myself fortunate that only one person I care about was killed. I have had several friends kidnapped for Continue reading

On genocide and earthquakes

April 24th was the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. I listen to BBC in the mornings, and they had been talking about it for days. Playing recordings of interviews with survivors, talking to their descendants, discussing the Turkish government’s refusal to recognize the genocide even a century later and what that means for those whose lives have been forever affected.

Anniversaries like this really affect me. I felt down, sad, confused. Listening to stories of Armenians forced to march into the Syrian desert, I thought of what I had seen while working in northern Syria: so many families forced from their villages and living under olive trees in the provinces bordering Turkey. As aid workers, many of us have an intimate knowledge of war, desperation, even genocide. For me, it felt deeply important to acknowledge and honor what Armenians have been through and what it must feel like to Continue reading