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#11 Links Expat Aid Workers Like

May 11, 2012

Phil at Itinerant Indigent on the cost of being away from family.

“We started this work, because we believed, long before the rest of the world was interested, that Afghanistan could be something more than a byword for misery and hopelessness. And that we could, or should, be part of that healing.

But why should that belief lead us to conclude that we would pass unscathed? Isn’t there likely to be a cost, somewhere? The other lives of which I am also a part – son, brother, friend – have continued, in their various parts of the world. Nothing stopped, just because we went to work in Afghanistan. There will be a cost, and we were told that, right at the start. If that cost is never apparent, you are either very lucky, or have somehow stayed close to the surface, buoyant enough to avoid the deep currents.

Deep down though, I know I hoped that these other lives would keep till we returned.”

Angelica (@onsanity) goes off on those in charge of hiring consultants, offering such tips as:

“Don’t expect me to calculate costs, including travel, if you are not telling me where I’m going and for how long. Also, when makes a difference, for the most  part prices double during  summer months, and we both know the timetable attached is irrelevant, especially as it states I stated this job two weeks ago.”

Urban Legend Kampala snarks about things as diverse as mobile phones, boda boda drivers and politics. Follow them on Twitter. (HT @rowanemslie)

Duncan Green starts using Twitter fo’ real and blogs about his first impressions.

“The endless self promotion: people retweet their retweets, even when the retweeter has added no discernible value. Why? Have I missed something or have you no remaining shreds of decorum? Looking at you @Bill_Easterly…. 

I did not find it a touchy-feely horizontal democratic conversation, as described by @clairemelamed when I asked about the paucity of women development bloggers/commenters. Actually it felt like lots of shouty men showing off.”

On the bright side:

“Gives you a sense of an endless conversation, with memes and new bits of research and journalism picked up, swirling rapidly into the mainstream, to be gobbled up by bigger fish or sink back into the depths. Going to take me a while to learn to navigate this one…. Oh, and no-one tweets about having coffee, or eating breakfast – that’s just twitterphobe propaganda.”

Quinn Z gets famous on NPR’s Talk of the Nation: “Aid worker leaves Haiti with a Sour Taste.” 

“Just because you’re poor doesn’t mean you don’t pick up on what other people perceive you to be. And I know a lot of Haitians who are very proud of being Haitian. They’re very proud of where they come from and, yeah, they might not have a lot, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re miserable and suffering constantly.

I think it’s unfair to pigeonhole them into that…. That is, certainly, something that can start to build resentment over time. It’s like, you know, you guys are just assuming I’m this thing that you need to come here and fix…. Goes back to my early point that coming in to try and save anything is, I think, incredibly demeaning to whoever the people that you’re trying to, quote, unquote, “save” are.”

@bill_easterly (the infamous self-retweeter referenced above) questions US ‘Beltway Bandits’ lobby against USAID’s new ‘buy local’ rules. Also providing commentary is @ReesEdward who explains:

“What is USAID’s reform all about? It wants to do three things to get better impact:

1. It wants to provide direct assistance to governments in the developing world;

2. It wants to provide more assistance directly to local civil society in the developing world (NGOs, media, watchdogs); and

3. It wants to procure more goods and services from local business in the developing world, cutting costs, driving wealth into host communities and creating jobs.

All of these actions will either partially or largely cut out the middle men inside the Beltway. All of these ideas could see some well off people in the “bandit” community getting less of the gravy train. They are not happy.”

Prize for unnecessary BOGO (buy-one-get-one) of the week goes to Flying Flips’ “Flip Flops for Good” project. As expected, Mashable is promoting it. (HT @janereitsma)

For each purchase made, FlyingFlips donates one pair of flip flops to a person in need in the developing world, through Soles4Souls and Fundacion A. Jean Brugger

You want to design your own flip flops, great. But please, there’s no need to add the “for good” guys, really, as Kevin Broome explains:

“Sending shoes to developing countries is actually not that great an idea. Developing countries have flip flops. There are local stores that sell them and local companies that make them. Sending free shoes to a developing country actually takes business away from the local people.

Also, you may want to check in with the local design community about their feelings on design contests / crowd sourced design. Most designers tend to like getting paid for their skills and ventures like this do little to promote just how valuable a good design can be.

Finally, it should be noted that Soles4Souls is a Christian-based organization, and while I have no intention of bashing religion, the practices of Christian-based organizations in developing countries have been directly responsible for misled education around safe sex and attitudes toward sexual orientation. I would just urge caution in knowing what exactly you are supporting.”

We assume no one who reads Mashable, however, will listen to Kevin.

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