Roberta Romano (Author): Born in southern Italy, Roberta always felt she was bound to work in, and for, the developing world. She has lived most of her life chasing the dream that changing our world is possible and that peace, justice and human dignity are not utopias but realities to be defended. She hopes to spend the rest of her life making this dream true.She studied Political Science, International Law and Human Rights and has worked as a Protection Officer and manager of development projects in emergencies and post-conflict scenarios. Roberta has lived and worked for different international organizations in Zimbabwe, Albania, Sudan and Uganda. She loves when new and different people meet and welcome each other as members of the same kind, creatures of the same God. She currently lives and works in Gulu, Northern Uganda, with her wonderful husband and children.
Lucy O’Donoghue (Author): Lucy has been engaged in aid and development work since 2008 in Vanuatu, Thailand, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Pakistan. To balance out, her academic background in oft perceived ‘wafty’ (but wonderful) subjects like sociology, economics, theology and philosophy, Lucy is currently completing an MSc in Public Health through the University of London/London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Lucy and her husband JP hail from opposite ends of the earth, New Zealand and Ireland respectively. Along with Billy, their Khyber Shepherd, they have wound up in Bangkok for the time being, still a bit shell shocked by life in an urban jungle.
Rachael Hubbard (Author): I grew up in a quiet mountain town in Appalachia where my parents chose alternative education and home schooled my siblings and I. Home schooling, and my parents’ encouragement was the foundation I needed to support my ideas and feed my adventurous spirit. My midwifery journey started while I was studying Painting at Hungry Creek Art School in New Zealand. I became friends with an amazing English midwife and my French teacher as well had her babies at home. I grew up familiar with and respecting midwifery, but did not develop a personal interest until meeting these wonderful ladies. In 2010, I moved back to West Virginia and attended Sacred Mountain Midwifery School on Spruce Knob, West Virginia. I had an incredible experience at school with my teachers and classmates as I learned the secrets of midwifery. I had immediate clarity about becoming a midwife, and zealously perused my apprenticeship. I apprenticed with Ruth Ann Colby Martin in West Virginia, and then spent one year internationally between the Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago and Uganda as a midwife student. My heart for midwifery is to serve women both in my local community, and to continue to work in the developing world. I currently work as a home birth midwife in Virginia and West Virginia.
Kelsey Hoppe (Author & Photographer): Kelsey currently works for the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum (PHF), an organisation of international NGOs providing humanitarian assistance in Pakistan. Previously, she worked in a range of different humanitarian and development roles in a variety of countries, including Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Indonesia, and Ukraine. She was born in California, attended university at George Washington University in Washington, DC, and is currently completing a Masters at Cambridge University, UK. She lives in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Kati Woronka (Author): As a student, Kati secretly dreamed of backpacking around the Middle East. So when she had the opportunity to study Arabic in Syria, she went – and quickly fell in love with life in Syria. After conquering Arabic, or attempting to do so, she became an academic researcher and fulfilled her dream, travelling around the region to interview disenfranchised women, religious minorities and refugees. Her research led to a passion for education, community reconciliation, and civil society: the kind of stuff international NGOs are meant to care about. Kati started working with Iraqi refugees in Syria in 2007, and her role there as a volunteer coordinator marked the beginning of a fascinating journey chasing misery in places such as Kosovo, Darfur, Haiti, East Timor, and most recently back in the Middle East responding to the crisis in Syria. She now lectures in International ￼Development at the University of East London. Kati recently published a novel based on her research ￼about Syrian culture, entitled Dreams in the Medina.
Kirsten Hagon (Author): Kirsten started off her human rights and humanitarian career in Australia, where she worked as a lawyer and advocate for asylum seeker rights. Unfortunately that work was clearly unsuccessful as not much has changed since, and it’s an issue she remains passionate and frustrated about. She has since then moved between UN Agencies and NGOs, even an international court, as well as between various countries and regions – Sudan (Darfur), Egypt, OPT, Uganda, Chad, Cote D’Ivoire, DRC. New York, Vancouver and Melbourne also crop up on this list. Over this time she has learnt to rock-climb and backcountry ski, and in all of these places she tried to dance – to anything and as often as possible. Until recently she headed up Oxfam’s UN Liaison office in New York, engaging UNSC members and UN Agencies on humanitarian and protection issues. She is currently based in Jerusalem with her husband who she met in Darfur (their first date was wading in a full wadi) where she has been researching the impacts of donor counter- terrorism measures on aid and is contemplating the more terrifying prospect of starting a family.
Carmen Sheehan (Author & Photographer): Born in the United States and raised abroad, Carmen developed the “travel bug” around the age of four. Upon graduating high school, she made a brief return to the USA to complete her Bachelors in Biology. Determined to make her first million by the age of 21, Carmen then joined the Peace Corps, where she served as a Health Volunteer in the beautiful mountains of Ecuador. Needless to say, she didn’t come anywhere close to making that first million, but the pursuit of world peace and friendship is sure to become lucrative any day now. Sticking with this theory, Carmen went on to complete her MPH/MSW at Tulane, followed by a number of years working on emergency aid projects based in Darfur, northern Uganda, andMozambique. She eventually returned to the USA for a spell, adjusting gradually to the consistent electricity and uncanny variety of cheeses, and transitioning her focus from emergency to development work. When not otherwise engaged in World Peace, Carmen enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter, catching up with friends, drinking coffee, going for long runs, and – ever the master of moderation – drinking more coffee.
Helen Seeger (Author): Born in India to missionary parents, Helen spent her childhood in Pakistan and Thailand. Completely jaded by overexposure to stunning mountains and crystal clear seas, she remembers brief periods back in the UK as miserable, wet, grey and confusing. Returning to the UK and France to study law, Helen discovered the joys of pubs, festivals, punting and the British public transport system. Failing to convince herself or anyone else that commercial law was her fate, she hightailed it back to warm and colourful Pakistan, working first on a maternal, newborn and child health project in the earthquake-affected area, and then supporting shelter, health and communications responses to the massive floods of 2010. Moving on to Yemen, Helen supported a range of protection and migration projects. She has recently returned to the UK to complete a masters’ degree and spend some more time in pubs, in parks and on buses.
Mia Ali (Author): Mia has held a variety of humanitarian and development roles for INGOs and private sector organisations in East & West Africa, the Pacific and the UK. An evening class ignited a passion for writing and she is currently working on her first novel, based on her experiences overseas. With her husband, she has recently launched a social enterprise (www.aidworks.org.uk), which helps organizations in Africa to strengthen their systems and supports local and international development workers to reach their potential. She lives in Sheffield, UK.
Miranda Bryant (Author): Miranda recommends a mid-life career switch to one and all. After working as a small-town newspaper reporter and editor for 12 years in Minnesota and Washington states (USA), she decided to join the Peace Corps. Having never traveled abroad, she found herself living for two years in Kazakshtan as a public health volunteer. To her surprise, she went on to obtain a master’s degree in international public health and changed professions. She has since worked in South Sudan, Malawi, Papua New Guinea and Pakistan, focusing on malaria prevention and treatment, safe water initiatives, and family planning in order to reduce death and illness among women and their children. Miranda is currently living in Myanmar. She is honored that her essay was chosen for this body of work and is thrilled to share the pages with some of her dearest friends.
Caryl Feldacker (Author & Photographer): Caryl is a committed idealist whose sarcasm and goofiness allows her to remain mostly sane while working in sub-Saharan Africa. Her passion for travel and for trying to make the world a better place led her to work in international health, starting in the field of population/environment linkages and moving through rural health into her current work in HIV prevention, treatment, and care. After finishing her MPH at Tulane, she spent two years in the Peace Corps in Ecuador, only to return to the United States long enough to land a 2-year placement in rural Brazil, first in the Amazon and then in the Pantanal. Wanting a break from overseas life, Caryl brought her Amazon mutt dog, Red Dog, back from Brazil and completed her Doctorate at UNC/Chapel Hill in 2009. After surviving the four years of her PhD, Caryl spent two years in Malawi working in an HIV clinic as an evaluation technical advisor. Currently, Caryl is a Clinical Assistant Professor and Research and Evaluation Advisor in the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington. She travels frequently to Mozambique and Zimbabwe for work, but she is always eager to return home to her partner, son, and Red Dog in Seattle, Washington.
Emilie Greenhalgh (Author & Photographer): Emilie grew up listening to her father’s stories about climbing mountains in the Andes and traveling across the African continent in a VW Van, sparking her interest in travel at an early age. Following an eye-opening study abroad experience in Senegal in college she decided to join the Peace Corps, spending two years working on small enterprise development and NGO capacity building in Cameroon. After attending graduate school for African studies and international economics, Emilie also worked in Morocco, Eastern DRC, and Afghanistan. She is truly passionate about agroenterprise, small enterprise development, and gender issues. Emilie recently moved to Washington, DC to explore life in the world of donors and policymakers, where she will focus on innovative programming to reduce poverty for women in Africa. In addition to her love of travel and development issues, Emilie also considers herself to be a bit of a foodie and wine lover, and hopes to participate in a yoga teacher training someday soon.
Steph Roberson (Author): Steph developed a fascination with travel and other cultures at a young age, growing up in Hong Kong before her family relocated to the UK. After graduating with a degree in English Literature and Classical Studies, she worked as a teacher in South Korea and Kuwait before moving into the humanitarian sector and completing an MSc in Humanitarian Programme Management. Steph has worked in Nepal, India, South Sudan and the Philippines, specialising in project management, capacity building and emergency food security & livelihoods, and getting onto first-name terms with various parasites along the way. She is currently working at an INGO in Oxford, developing capacity building materials and supporting emergency responses worldwide. Steph firmly believes that little things in this world can make a big difference. She loves travelling, Thai food, cats, knitting and making patchwork quilts, and maintains a healthy belief that the machines are out to get her. When it comes to urban legends about people being injured by anything technological, rest assured that at least two of those legends began with Steph.
Malka Older (Author): Malka is an aid worker, a writer, and a PhD candidate exploring the dynamics of multi-level governance and disaster response. Her work experience includes supporting global programs and agency-wide strategy as a disaster risk reduction technical specialist; designing and implementing economic development initiatives in post-disaster context; and supervising a large and diverse portfolio as Director of Programs in Indonesia. She has responded to emergencies in Sri Lanka, Uganda, Darfur, Indonesia, Japan, and Mali, in the last three as Team Leader.
Ruth Townley (Author): Ruth was born in England and lives in Sydney. She was the impressionable age of four when Band Aid UK commenced its campaign. She remembers seeing the television images and deciding that when she grew up, she’d travel in Africa. She also spent a lot of time hanging around a Salesian Boys Town. It was much later that she realised the big boys she followed about were quite troubled young men. They were just kind to her. Small wonder, really, that Ruth’s life has involved a lot of volunteering: including with refugees in Sydney, as an assistant midwife in rural Philippines (she was started on reception but got promoted for not speaking the language), and with street kids in Tanzania. Unmanageable rage at Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers contributed to a two-year stint in northern Uganda. Ruth’s career has included coordinating an NGO for disadvantaged children. She is a psychologist, currently working in a hospital with chronically suicidal patients. Outside work, she is fond of curry festivals and costume parties, and is smug about owning an ancient convertible, given her sister’s admonishment when Ruth was 19 that if she didn’t get a real job, she’d never have a sports car.
Tracy O’Heir (Author): Tracy grew up in Chicago and, while she loves her hometown, has been on a search for nicer winters since she was 18. Currently she is a Disaster Operations Specialist with the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) at the US Agency for International Development, the US Government response to foreign humanitarian emergencies. During Tracy’s ‘first career’ in social work, she worked with people living with HIV and immigrants and refugees in the United States. She started her career as a humanitarian worker with the Jesuit Refugee Service in South Sudan from 2002-2004, and later worked in South Sudan for Catholic Relief Services from 2006-2009. From 2009 to 2011, she served as the Senior Program Manager for Disaster Response for InterAction, the largest alliance of US-based international NGOs. Tracy has also worked on responses to humanitarian crises in Syria, Zimbabwe, and Uganda. She graduated from Fordham University with a MA in International Political Economy and Development in 2006. She speaks Arabic and also studied in Egypt at the American University in Cairo in 2005.
Erin Patrick (Author): Erin has been working in refugee policy and humanitarian response programs since 2001, focusing mostly on protection and issues affecting women, including several years spent leading the global Safe Access to Firewood and alternative Energy (SAFE) initiative. She is currently working with UNICEF on gender-based violence in emergencies and has also worked for the Women’s Refugee Commission, Migration Policy Institute, Human Rights Watch and for terrorism analyst and author Peter Bergen, among others. Most of Erin’s work in the field is in east and central Africa. Sometimes (usually in the midst of a 50 hour flight) she questions her sanity, but it’s also hard to imagine doing anything else. She lives in New York with her husband/personal security coordinator, and together their second full-time job is restoring their 125-year brownstone, mostly with dental tools. Erin has a Master’s from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and an honorary PhD in wood stripping.
Melissa Phillips (Author): Melissa has worked for many years with refugees and asylum-seekers in Australia, the UK, South Sudan and North Africa with NGOs and the UN. She likes to think her work contributes to improved conditions for displaced persons however if you ask Melissa’s 4-year old niece what she does, she’ll tell you she is always on ‘holidays’. Melissa is an avid reader of tales from the field, from biography to fiction, and jumped at the opportunity to contribute to this anthology. A passionate feminist, Melissa also believes in the unique perspective that women bring to aid and development work. In her spare time in the field Melissa has learnt Congolese dancing, Arabic and contributed to the first edition of the Bradt Guide to Sudan (by Paul Clammer, published in 2010, later revised 2013). She is an Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne and shares a birthday with everyone’s favourite humanitarian – Angelina Jolie.
Wendy Bruere (Author): At last count, Wendy has lived in seven different countries in the Middle East, West Africa, and Asia. She’s worked for UN agencies, NGOs and media outlets. Her career ‘path’ is more a career web, and has taken her to Nigerian slums, refugee camps in Jordan and Iraq, natural disaster hit areas in Indonesia, and remote Timorese villages. It’s also seen her trying to explain herself to police officers in several distant corners of the globe. In between chasing adventures and hoping that somehow some of what she does may help make the world a better place, she lives in Melbourne. She tries to maintain hobbies, like rock-climbing, and, despite all available evidence to the contrary, still thinks challenging men to push-up competitions is a reasonable pick up technique.
Ali Hayes (Author): Ali has worked for many years on humanitarian responses, peacekeeping and the protection of civilians. She has worked with a range of non-governmental organizations, the United Nations and the UK Government in conflict and disaster-affected areas, including Darfur, Bosnia, Pakistan, Haiti and Mali. Originally qualifying as a lawyer, Ali has a Masters in ‘Global Governance and International Security’ with a specialization in Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. Ali moved to New York to help establish the Protection of Civilians Unit at the UN Department of Peacekeeping and currently works for the UN’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict. Her real bosses are her two little girls, who remind her that the most important place to be is with them.
Miranda Gaanderse (Author): Miranda inherited a love for the great outdoors from her father, and itchy feet for travel from her mother. While countless childhood hours spent exploring maps in atlases, encyclopaedias and magazines did not translate into a reliable sense of navigation, it did spur a fascination with the world outside her hometown of Kanata, Canada. Miranda studied politics and international affairs, and joined the humanitarian relief, recovery and development field in 2005. She has since worked for donors, NGOs and UN agencies with a focus on refugee protection, human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), post-conflict governance, and security sector reform. Her studies and work have taken her to Rwanda, South Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, and Uganda. She is presently based in Juba, South Sudan, where she supports protection programming for IDPs in various parts of the country. When she is not in meetings, writing reports, riding in helicopters or camping in field sites, she enjoys making travel plans with her husband – an adventurous astrophysicist who shares her passion for exploration.