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#120 The Dark Side

December 19, 2011

Submitted by UXO

Once upon a time there was a young volunteer. He walked around in his Chacos, lived on $60 a month and hitchhiked around some remote corner of Pakistan or Uganda on the back of a WFP truck when not taking his life in his hands in a matatu or the back of a boda boda.

We come upon our young volunteer dressed in dusty, brownish hand-washed clothes, whilst he curiously watches a clean, rather well fed (read not having lost 6 kg from “running stomach”)  looking EAW standing at a swanky bar, downing drinks that the young volunteer can only hope to afford one day (eg, instead of buying those small plastic pouches of whiskey or local brew which he slips surreptitiously into his“soft”)

“How on earth does she afford $8 for a vodka tonic?” he sighs.

A more experienced, EAW leans in and tells him knowingly…..That woman? She works for the UN….she’s gone over to the DARK SIDE.

EAW, you cannot hide. Give yourself to the Dark Side...

Now, this older, more experienced EAW, who loves  workshopping,  going native from time to time and particularly eating local food, says these words with a certain amount of scorn. He  would never become a UN worker, someone falling for the big salary, the laissez passer, the seemingly endless daily subsistence allowance and the swanky 4 x 4s that waft around the city and on “field missions”. Oh no. He would never sell out like that.

And yet, there comes a time, oh yes, there comes a time, maybe around his early thirties, when that very same NGO worker grows tired of sharing a guest house with 4 or 5 other colleagues, and longs to have a salary big enough to live…. wait for it…..ALONE. He longs to be able to fly….wait for it….business class….and not be stuck at the back by the toilet on a long haul flight.

And then it happens. One of his colleagues gets offered a UN job. And worse, takes it! Off the colleague goes, to the land of seeming milk and honey. “Traitor!” cries the low paid weary NGO worker. You’ve gone to the dark side!! You’re becoming ONE OF THEM!!! And yet, as the months pass, the very same EAW stays in touch with his now former colleague at the UN, and from time to time skypes in to find out how she’s doing, asking nonchalantly…. ”got any posts going there, aha, ahahahahaha”.

You see, as much as the EAW might say he doesn’t want it, he does, he really does. He too wants to at least try out the dark side.

But over at the UN, time also is passing, and the EAW that left her NGO where she met beneficiaries on a daily basis and saw food given out, wells being dug and mosquito nets distributed, becomes weary with the inter-agency working groups, dashboards and office-based job. She yearns for those simpler, halcyon days with her NGO and starts to toy with the idea of… sharp intake of breath….leaving the UN and all its perks! But can she? Can she really shake off the golden life jacket? And if so for how long??

Well, my friends, the answer is no, she can’t.

So what to do? What to do?????

Ah! Of course! Become a consultant to the UN and to NGOs and only work 6 months a year!!!


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6 Comments leave one →
  1. ingeniokinetic permalink
    December 19, 2011 10:24 am

    Good to see EAW picking up the standard again. but you missed the real golden handcuffs, school allowance and pension you have to do 16 years to make that solid

  2. World Banker permalink
    December 19, 2011 11:02 am

    Even better. Become a World Bank Task Team Leader. All the joys of getting out into the field (I’m up to 164 days of travel in the last 10 months), the benefits of travel perks, and above all, access to funding which you can use to help people. The best of all worlds.

  3. Sofo permalink
    December 20, 2011 5:56 am

    You forgot another option. The UN EAW might get herself an army of UN Volunteers to do all the grunt work. She will get to go to the field for the big events so that she can still feel in touch with people. And she can berate, use and abuse UNVs because she is building their capacity and their character.

  4. beentheredonethat permalink
    December 24, 2011 9:49 am

    To work for USAID, especially as a direct hire, is also to go over to the Dark Side.

  5. March 6, 2012 11:36 pm

    I love this post so much. I am that dusty volunteer who is now going over to the Dark side! And I can’t wait!

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  1. (Not) Speaking on behalf of poor people « Bottom Up Thinking

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