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#54 Putting aid work first

May 9, 2011

If you plan to be romantically involved with an EAW, you’ll need to remember that you (and your potential offspring) will often come second to aid work, which is a very, very, very important calling. It’s actually kind of like a vocation.

It’s normal for aid work challenges and complex organizational politics to take over your EAW girlfriend’s (or boyfriend’s) every waking (and sleeping) moment. She cannot miss that life-saving meeting. Cannot pass up that networking opportunity (she might meet someone important!) Cannot say no to adding on that extra project that might give her a key experience on her CV that leads to an exciting new job elsewhere.

You might not see it, but there is always opportunity right around the corner for the EAW. She just needs to prove she is faster, smarter, stronger, pulling more weight, more willing to suffer, more forward thinking and more engaged and committed to the organizational vision. And then someone will notice her brilliance. And then she’ll be promoted to a position where she will have influence. And then she can fix everything that is wrong with aid, allowing her do even more good!* Even a non-aid worker can understand the long-term value in that, right?

Be prepared to always play second fiddle unless your EAW romantic partner gets more excitement, satisfaction and a bigger sense of personal achievement out of your relationship than she does out of attending a cluster group meeting, submitting a grant report or going on a community monitoring visit.

And if you’re looking for a no-win argument or some passive-aggressive resentment, try suggesting that her priorities need adjusting….

Of course there are those couples who make it to the lifetime commitment stage**. But if you’ve married an EAW, don’t even bother pointing out to him (or her) that despite his voluntary over-the-top personal sacrifice, the agency where he works is sucking aid workers dry and spitting them out afterwards.

Yay iChat! (Photo:

Don’t waste your breath saying that his agency must only believe in child rights for other people’s children,  since the only time he sees his own children is when they are sleeping. Don’t bring up that you could use a little family reunification or peace and reconciliation or gender equity program at home.

Just don’t even go there.You are missing the point that the EAW is a very important part of world progress. He is always  needed more elsewhere than he is at home. He has reports to finish, management meetings to attend, networking events to be seen at, other people’s children to save. The EAW matters in the larger scheme of things. He is only missing birthdays, report cards, first teeth falling out and other key moments with his own children because others need him more.

I mean, think about it. Where would the world be without EAWs like him who spend their days, evenings and weekends growing their organizations’ revenue and reach by putting aid work before family?

And anyway, nowadays there is Internet almost everywhere, and kids are such digital natives that they don’t even notice the difference between virtual and face-2-face parenting!

*Not really how getting promoted happens.

**See Stuff Partners of Expat Aid Workers (PoEAW) Like.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. May 9, 2011 8:00 am

    Oh. OH! This post is a balm on my poor, abused, PoEAW soul… there is a reason a fellow PoEAW and I set up a ‘Stuff Partners of Expat Aid Workers like tribute (/frustration venting) page on Facebook… !!


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