Finished March 20
Chasing Chaos: My Decade In and Out of Humanitarian Aid by Jessica Alexander
This memoir covers the years 2000 to 2010, with an epilogue in 2013. Jessica started her career in advertising but found that unsatisfying and switched to work in the humanitarian aid arena in her mid-twenties. It took her some time to find her way in this world, choosing the educational route that provided a base of knowledge that would take her to the senior role she is in by 2013 with the U.N. Her first field job was in Rwanda in 2003, following which she returned to New York. Again back in the field in 2005, she was first in West Darfur in a role involving children and then in North Darfur where she was coordinating a refugee camp. Her next field job, also in 2005, took her to Sri Lanka and Indonesia following the tsunami relief work and evaluating the success of projects. She again returned to New York and then a Fulbright scholarship took her to Sierra Leone in 2006-2007 to study the reintegration into society of the child soldiers there. Back home in New York by 2008, she took a desk job and resumed a more normal life until the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 took her there for six months to monitor the aid there. By 2013 she was still in New York working for the U.N., and teaching at three institutions while pursuing her Ph.D.
Her experiences in each of the countries she worked in was different, depending on her experience, her role, and the state of the country itself. She is very open about her experiences, discussing frustrations, culture shock, and burnout issues. Everyone she meets is human, with skills and flaws. She has changed people's names and identifying information to protect their privacy, which I think makes her more able to discuss the realities of the situations.
This book was enlightening on this field of work, making real the environments, human reactions, and politics involved.