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Life in Sudan: Interview with an Anonymous Aid Worker

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Greetings, friends and readers. Today I have a personal interview with one of our group who reads AONC from the Sudan.

Christine (not her real name) is from the U.S. and works in the international development field for a charity that operates throughout Sudan. She has spent more than a year in the country thus far, and recently signed on for another commitment of indefinite length.

Because she is engaged in sensitive work and serves in Sudan at the permission of the government, we mutually decided to post this as an anonymous interview. All answers are her own.

Let’s get started.

  • I know it’s probably hard to summarize what’s happening in the Sudan, but can you try?

This is a difficult question to answer. For years the media has simplistically portrayed two conflicts in Sudan: the Darfur conflict pitting government support “Arab” tribes against “African” tribes and the civil war between the Muslim North and the Christian South. I’ll start with Darfur. First, the “Arab” and “African” labels are somewhat arbitrary. The various tribes have been living together and intermarrying for centuries.

Second, the level of violence is nowhere near what it was a few years ago during what some have labeled the “genocide.” New arrivals to Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps are fleeing low-intensity conflicts. For the most part, these are no longer just janjaweed/rebel conflicts. Often, they may be arab/arab, rebel/rebel, nomad/pastoralist, etc. While people are no longer dying in massive numbers, over 200,000 people are still displaced due to insecurity.

In March of 2009, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Bashir for crimes against humanity, the first time the ICC has done this to a sitting president. The next day, twelve of the largest aid agencies were expelled from the country. Three of the most effective national NGOs were dissolved and all assets were seized by the government. Since then, the level of harassment of international aid workers has reached unprecedented levels. At least seven workers have been kidnapped in the Darfur region, causing the remaining international agencies to pull out of certain areas. In some cases, the government has taken over certain programs, although how long they can sustain this remains to be seen.

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I think it is important to note that the government is not a monolithic entity. There are some very good people in the Sudanese government, particularly the line ministries such as the Ministry of Health, doing the best that they can to provide services to the Sudanese people.

The second conflict is the North/South. In 2005, the leaders of the North and South signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), ending a conflict that had lasted more than 20 years. According to the terms of the peace agreement, a presidential election would be held in 2009 and a referendum in 2011 on whether or not the South would become an independent country. The election has yet to be held due to disagreement over the census. Conflict has arisen in the border areas since the signing, mostly in the oil-bearing regions such as Abyei. These areas have special status and will also have the right to vote whether they want to join the north or the south if the country splits. Of course, where there is oil, there is almost always conflict. In addition, the South has seen significant inter-tribal violence in the past year, with entire villages massacred.

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  • What are the root causes of the conflicts?

Underdevelopment, politics, race, climate change—ask 10 people, you will get 10 different answers. I’ve given a very simplistic overview above. To learn more about the Sudan conflict, check out Alex de Waal’s blog Making Sense of Darfur. While Alex has a definite bias (full disclosure: a bias that I often share), he is very good about ensuring that those who disagree with him have a voice as well.

  • What does a typical day look like for you?

I don’t think there is such a thing as a typical day. I divide my time between the capital and field sites. When I am in the capital, a typical day consists of writing reports and attending meetings with government officials, donor representatives, and various UN agencies. When I am in the field, I visit project sites (schools, clinics, water sources, etc.) and meet with beneficiaries to ensure that our programs are meeting their needs.

  • What are your biggest challenges, personally or professionally?

Maintaining neutrality is critical when working in a humanitarian situation. We are in Sudan at the pleasure of the government. As a sovereign nation, they have every right to decide whether or not we are allowed to stay in the country. Since I believe that the life-saving services we provide are critical, I need to be extremely careful of what I say and do, which is extremely difficult and, at times, ethically challenging.

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The other great challenge is working with UN agencies. While I know some very dedicated, intelligent people who work for the UN and some agencies that function better than others, the system works against them. I despair when I think of the billions of dollars that get wasted on outrageously high salaries and fancy compounds. What most people don’t know is that often UN agencies, such as UNICEF, don’t actually implement anything, particularly in insecure areas. Rather, they subcontract to NGOs (primarily national staff) who then provide services to beneficiaries, with the UN taking a significant portion of the funds in overhead. When money is funneled through UN agencies, rigid, inflexible rules make it difficult to implement projects. UNICEF now insists that any NGOs building schools or latrines with their funds must procure cement from the UN.

I know many projects that have stalled because UNICEF failed to deliver that cement and won’t allow the NGOs to procure it in the local market. It’s not just the wasted money that makes my blood boil. It’s the way they try to control all humanitarian activities with a dictatorial hand, without consulting beneficiaries or the NGOs who work with them.

I should reiterate that I can only speak to my experience with certain agencies in a certain context, although recent studies commissioned by a consortium of major NGOs indicated that this occurs in many countries.

  • Do you think people in the U.S. and elsewhere in the Western world are aware of what’s happening in the Sudan?

I think they get a very skewed idea of what is going on. The loudest voices control the coverage and the debate. In the West, these voices come from advocacy groups like Save Darfur and the Enough project. While their intentions are good, they portray the conflict in Sudan in black and white terms—the evil government against the defenseless rebels.

I even saw a recent editorial by the founder of the Enough project blaming the recent inter-tribal conflicts in the South on the Northern government. The problem with this simplistic view is that it limits the options of western governments if you convince enough of the public that one side is evil and the other is the side of the angels.

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  • What motivates you or led to your choice to work in Sudan?

An Ethiopian refugee who had spent time in Sudan once said that if you put 100 of the world’s nicest people in a room, 99 of them would be Sudanese. I couldn’t agree more. The first time I went to Sudan, a few years ago, I was extremely nervous. With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, anti-western sentiment was high in Muslim countries. I expected to experience this but everyone I met was warm and welcoming. I also find the country fascinating—the cultures, the geography, the politics.

  • What worries you?

I worry about not being able to meet commitments to the people we provide services for because of security concerns. With multiple kidnappings of aid workers this year, I worry about colleagues in insecure areas. I worry about the peace holding (see the answer to the next question).

This isn’t a worry but I find that one of the most difficult things about this type of work is always having to say goodbye to people. Very few people want to live long-term in a country that is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. Most people stick around for a year or less.

  • Are you more optimistic or pessimistic about the future of Sudan?

I’m extremely pessimistic in the short term. We’ll see how the country reacts to two major events over the next year or so. The presidential election is scheduled to occur this coming April. The voter registration period recently ended, but I know very few people who registered. Some just wanted to stay under the radar. I’ve heard others say that registration implies acceptance that the process will be legitimate, which many doubt. Not registering is a form of protest. Many Southerners could care less about the presidential election because they are simply biding time until the second event: the referendum in which they get to vote whether or not to secede from Sudan. Protests are already beginning about the legitimacy of that process.

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Most Southerners support succession. But will the vote be legitimate? Even if it is, will both parties accept the result? Even if they do, does the South have the resources to survive as a state? What’s to stop the southern tribes from fighting each other – over 2,000 have died in tribal clashes this past year. I’ve had Southerners tell me that the only thing preventing them from fighting each other is their desire to hold it together until after the referendum.

That being said, I do have optimism for the long term primarily because of the sheer volume of talented, intelligent, engaged people in Sudan. To be clear, I am referring to the Sudanese and not the expats. I’m particularly impressed by the women in this country. Many of my role models are the smart, sassy, fiercely independent Sudanese women working in the Ministry of Health, teaching in universities, and running nonprofit organizations. I think that may surprise some people when they hear that northern Sudan is governed by Islamic law. Wearing a hijab does not make one subservient.

  • What do you do for fun over there? Do you have such a thing?

I think that in order to stay sane, you have to have fun outlets. I read a lot. I think the Kindle is the greatest invention of the 21st century. I hated the idea of ebooks. But when you have very limited luggage allowances, especially on internal UN flights (which we use to get to field sites), a device that weighs 10.2 ounces, can hold up to 1,000 books, and can last for over a week without recharging, is heaven-sent.

Northern Sudan is under Islamic law, which means no alcohol and no nightlife. We spend a lot of time at coffee shops. A group of North American friends decided to introduce our Eastern hemisphere friends to potlucks, which we hold once or twice a month. The embassies occasionally host events.

I love NPR podcasts. Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me is the highlight of my week. If anyone knows a way to download (not stream) Morning Edition or All Things Considered, please let me know.

I also watch a lot of DVDs. It’s not unusual to work 10-12 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week. It’s nice to pop in a DVD and fall asleep 10 minutes later. Regardless of nationality, the most popular DVDs here seem to be West Wing and The Wire.

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  • Can you tell us a good story about your work?

When people think of aid work, I think the most common images are of people constructing schools or latrines, drilling wells, distributing food, or delivering health care. But just because you build a latrine does not mean that someone will use it. The most difficult part of aid work is getting the community to believe in what you are doing and to take ownership of the projects. I worked for an organization that was building latrines as part of a larger project—but no one used latrines in the community. As a result, the water was contaminated and people were getting sick. During community meetings to introduce the project, community members told our staff that it was taboo to go to the bathroom in “house”. If you do, you will be considered a wizard and your daughters will never marry.

You may find that amusing but these people truly believe that, which is why our community mobilizers are key to our program success.

  • What is the one thing you’d want AONC readers to understand about your work, or aid work in general?

People want jobs, not handouts. While there are certain situations when a handout is the only choice (conflicts, natural disasters), I believe that global poverty needs to be addressed in a broader economic context. For example, as long as developed countries continue to subsidize agriculture (typically large agriculture corporations, not the small family farm), African farmers will never be able to earn enough to support their families and will continue to rely on handouts.

  • What can we do to help?

I know the easy answer to this question is to give money to charity x. However, I believe that the best thing one can do is to take time to educate oneself. To understand the complexities of the underlying causes of conflicts or poverty and to demand the same of your government representatives.

For aid in general, here are three books that with very different perspectives on aid: The End of Poverty by Jeffery Sachs, The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier, and Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo.

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Wrap-Up

I really appreciate our friend taking the time to write such detailed responses. If you have a follow-up question for her, feel free to post it in the comments and she’ll respond as internet access allows.

(Remember that this is an anonymous interview and she can’t comment on anything political.)

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66 Comments

  • Luce says:

    Enlightening interview. These conflicts are very difficult to understand and I believe she is bang on when she said there is no easy answer and the best way to help this country is to learn their culture and get them to prosper so they can live at peace. As long as people don’t have enough to eat, drink and work each day they will fight to survive. Instead of trying to change them or give them what they need, we have to provide them with the tools to become independent and let them strive on their own. She is in a very difficult situation and I admire her courage and determination. Today I have learned a little more about a conflict that we all have heard on the news but now I have a different perspective. Great work.

  • My father-in-law started a non-profit called Life For Sudan (www.lifeforsudan.org) to assist Sudanese who have settled in New England and to aid the rebuilding effort in Southern Sudan.

    It seems like there are so few people serving the true needs of our world at large. Thank you for doing the work that nobody seems to want to do. It’s people like you who make the hard, right choices instead of the easy, wrong ones. And believe me, it does not go overlooked.

  • Debra says:

    Wow. Thanks for getting and sharing this insider info and point of view, Chris. Astounding how personalities (“nicest people”), conflicts and organizations all jostle together in Sudan and how dedicated people work to help. My hat is off to Christine and people like her.

  • Audrey says:

    Christine, thanks so much for sharing (and thanks to Chris for publishing this) your experiences in the field, your thoughts on what’s happening in Sudan politically and the challenges aid organizations face. I have to admit that the more we travel, the more skeptical I get of big aid organizations and how the money gets spent. I am saddened – but not surprised – to hear of the challenges of working with UNICEF and the big organizations with their rules and restrictions.

    You expressed perfectly another observation I’ve had of development projects: “The most difficult part of aid work is getting the community to believe in what you are doing and to take ownership of the projects.”

    My husband and I may go to Sudan (and several other East African countries) for photography/storytelling projects with a microfinance organization this spring. I have to admit I’m a bit anxious because of what you read on the news, but am also excited by the opportunity and the possibility to learn.

  • Mike Echlin says:

    This is the kind of front-line perspective that is lacking from the major news networks.

    It’s fascinating to see a country with deep-rooted traditions strive for change and societal improvement.

  • Superb read, I will be recommending it. I am not sufficiently engaged with this kind of thing on a daily basis, and this was a great way to put a face on the people that are, and offer a window onto the subtler, more complex side of what is often portrayed in very simplistic terms.

  • Chris thanks so much for bringing this interview to us. It’s a relief to hear about Sudan from someone who is actually working there instead of having it all filtered through the typical gatekeepers- media and government. Thanks for connecting us to her and to Sudan and for an interview that looks honestly at the grey areas and drops the black and white BS.

  • Sloan says:

    Thank you very much for the insightful interview.

    I’d like to ask Christine what sort of background she has, in terms of education, that sent her in this direction.

  • Kerri says:

    Thanks Chris for your courage, insight, and forward-thinkingness to include this in AONC. I ‘heart’ you!

  • Steph H. says:

    Thanks so much for doing this interview and for capturing the “real, on the ground” perspective. My husband and I have traveled extensively all over the world and I would agree with everything Christine has shared with your readers. It is only be educating ourselves, and by being open to what the NEEDS of the local people are, rather than what we want to provide based on our own ideas and perceptions, that things will improve in areas such as Sudan. Christine, thank you for taking on the challenge and I wish you all the best there in Sudan, or wherever you end up.

  • Fly Brother says:

    “Wearing a hijab does not make one subservient.” Wow. This interview should be required reading in high school history classes (since “current events” are hardly ever covered anymore).

    Thanks, Chris, for sharing this with us. The insider’s perspective is often what’s missing most when all we get on the outside are blurbs from well-intentioned but surface-skimming journalists and pundits who sit in tv studios all day.

  • Thank you for publishing this interview, Chris. It really shows the complexities of international aid work, especially in a place so politically volatile as the Sudan.

    One question I do have for your interviewee, if she is able to reply, is how she manages to deal with the emotional toll her work must take on her. This has been a problem for me in certain types of relief work and I would be very interested to learn of her strategies.

  • Adam Axon says:

    Like many others above I’d like to thank you for both for this informative interview. I agree with ‘Christine’, Education is the key. I urge everyone to spread this wide and far and play an active role in the ‘Education’ process for people across the world.

  • Tyler Tervooren says:

    I think this is one of the best uses/outlets for the travel related writing of AONC. Giving voice to those around the world that need to be heard.

    Like Christine said, the major outlets for information paint very black and white pictures and few realize that it isn’t so cut and dry.

  • Susan Baar says:

    To begin my response, I must admit that I am a hardcore “lurker”, but I had such an overwhelmingly positive response to this interview that I simply had to step outside my comfort zone and acknowledge my most profound respect and admiration for this aid worker in Sudan.

    She is completely right, Western media gives us a biased, inaccurate, simplistic view (at best, and often a completely untrue view as they cater to the interests of vested interests) of the situation in Sudan. For this reason I do not read any of the Western media, press, print (exceptions: The Economist and the Christian Science Monitor), radio/tv, or online except for NPR (WBUR in Boston), and select websites/blogs that have been recommended to me by someone I trust, or, if I have discovered them myself, a thorough survey of friends I trust.

    Great Work!

  • This is a fantastic interview – so informative and I agree with Tyler that this is an excellent use of travel writing for AONC. I would love to read more first-hand accounts like this one — what it’s like to live in certain countries or cultures, especially those in transition and complexity like Sudan.

    Chris, you should submit this to Anderson Cooper’s blog or via the CNN viewer blogs (can’t remember what they call it, but you can post this story on CNN.com somewhere). You could get a good media hit from it.

  • And I can’t leave comments yet without a thanks and a huge nod to Christine for sharing so much I didn’t know about the UN and UN agencies (wow, what an eye opener). Christine, I don’t know how you do what you do but I admire your courage and intelligence. The world needs a lot more people like you! And, I’d love to hear quarterly updates from you from Sudan as long as you’re there.

  • Jane says:

    Thank you so much for publishing something that goes beyond the good/evil dichotomies in the Western media! When I was living in China, I made friends with a Sudanese army pilot who was there on a military exchange. When I first met him (he was a friend of a then-boyfriend) I was half expecting a horned devil after reading about Darfur in the press. Or at the very least someone very unpleasant. But..he was black African but Muslim, but liked a drink and a smoke and dancing with pretty girls, and was not only human but lovely. And then I realised people could be judging the good men I knew who’d served in Iraq exactly as I’d prejudged this guy…

  • This is a very interesting interview in a style that is rarely offered by mainstream media. I also became interested in Sudan about 1.5 years ago from a person (who has since become a friend) who words for the UN in Southern Sudan. At a party, he talked about the situation in the South making me realize that I knew nothing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the end of the 21-year civil war in Sudan. I only knew about Darfur from the media who did not seem to make any links with the other civil war that ended in 2005.

    Since my first conversation with my UN friend, I started a blog ddicated to the situation in Southern Sudan to inform myself by following the situation and to provide others with a platform to read about what is going on there.

    I’ve put on my blog the first two of a video portrait series of Southern Sudan aid workers. There are more to come.

    Add this book to the list above: “A Bed for the Night: Humanitarianism in Crisis” by David Rieff

    THANKS!

  • Larry says:

    Great interview. I really enjoyed the question ‘Do you think people in the U.S. and elsewhere in the Western world are aware of what’s happening in the Sudan?’ and I think Christine gave the average Westerner a little too much credit. I am a University educated Canadian and before reading this my knowledge of Sudan could be summed up by the following statement. Sudan is in Africa and they had a war/genocide 15-20 years back which resulted in an interesting documentary called the Lost Boys of
    Sudan.

    Its sad, but I don’t think the average person in the west thinks about the problems in Africa or elsewhere until they appear in a major movie/book/news/etc…

  • Abby Way says:

    I would like to say… wow! I’m another lurker, but had to comment on this great interview from a commendably strong woman doing much-needed work with grace and sensitivity.

    I would love to work abroad with an aid organization, and if Christine could answer, I’d be most obliged: What’s the best way to start getting involved? Any recommendations for aid organizations that are noteworthy or should be avoided, etc, would be fantastic.

    I’m working on building a business that will generate a passive income and allow me to travel and volunteer worldwide. This interview made me all the more excited and motivated to hurry up and get it done!

  • brooklynchick says:

    Thanks so much – very interesting to get the on-the-ground view. One charity I give to that helps small family African farms improve their businesses is the One Acre Fund – definitely not a hand-out, and they have great results.

  • TD says:

    What an amazing interview, Chris!! It definitely has taught me a few new things about Sudan. I have always believed that charity is not the way to help the poor…no one wants to live on charity for ever, most people want to make a living and work and feel proud of who they are. But the question now is, how can we help create jobs? The subsidized agriculture industry in US allows them to keep food costs down in US, so I don’t see the US govt taking away those subsidies any time soon. Also, with the rise of the bio-diesel industry, the govt will want to subsidize corn to keep this new fuel cost competitive and low.

    So, what exact steps can a common US resident take to change our government’s mind set or priorities? Appealing to their hearts on humanitarian or altruistic terms never works in my experience. Can you explore some ideas along these lines? Second question for Christine: Can we donate to Sudanese NGO’s directly? Can you suggest a few good ones that you have worked with?

  • Ramona says:

    This is a fantastic interview. This is one of the best things you can keep doing. Interview people who are on the front line. Go straight to the source.

  • Kerry says:

    I would like to thank you, Chris, for asking the right questions of the right people. As a human rights lawyer who grew up in Africa I sympathize with your interviewee. I commend her for her selfless work and may many blessings rain upon her Kindle. This is the kind of interview that tells real people about real people. Thanks for joining the dots.

  • Brett says:

    Wow Chris. I think that last point (one thing AONC readers should know) is absolutely key. Reminds me of the oft-quoted parable of giving a man a fish and teaching a man to catch a fish…

  • Margie says:

    Hi Chris and Christene, thanks for a very informative and interesting read.

    I recently heard a quote that captured my view on development beautifully:

    “If you are coming to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you are coming because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us work together.” -Australian Aboriginal woman

    Keep up the good work!

  • Like all the others, I thoroughly appreciate this interview; I was already aware of the complexities of Sudan and the problems of big aid agencies as I was fortunate enough to fall into a job with a ‘radical’ charity War on Want during the beginning of the 1984 Ethiopian famine – that charity ended up being one of the lead agencies and had, even then, the practice of not working through Government agencies or the mega aid organizations – for these very reasons, that so much is wasted either in overheads or incompletely counseled projects.

    But what was wonderful in the time I worked there was that the field officers would come back and tell us all about the work – with slides in those days. This is the closest I’ve come since to such an insightful and touching account.

  • Susan says:

    That was absolutely fascinating and a much needed resource to cut through the noise. Thank you!

  • TC says:

    Thanks for a fascinating interview. You mention “recent studies commissioned by a consortium of major NGOs” — any references would be great! Very curious to read and learn more.

  • Keelie says:

    Great interview – thanks

  • Karl Staib says:

    People don’t want handouts because it restricts their creativity. When you give someone a job they find a way to get stuff done. That could mean helping people through interpersonal change or helping people start their own business.

    I’m trying to help people, but sometimes I don’t feel like I’m doing enough. This is an insecurity within me that I’m working on.

    Great interview. It’s great to read people’s perspectives from other countries. Some times America’s media focuses too much on America and not enough on the rest of the world.

  • Marco Puccia says:

    Chris, thanks for sharing this interview! It’s not often we get good insight and perspective on what’s going on in Sudan — this was very enlightening!

  • Jackson says:

    I wonder if anyone could find/post the link to the survey about UNICEF Christine is talking about. I’ve heard a lot about USAID’s failures as an organization, but I’ve always thought UNICEF operated with low overhead and without a dictatorial hand. It would be great to read this study.

    That aside, it’s always excellent to hear from someone who has actually been in Sudan, because their perspective is always so eye-opening.

  • Anuradha Bakshi says:

    I must congratulate you on this very comprehensive and unbaised account of a very complex situation. I am sure anyone reading this interview would want to help the Sudanese people in any way they could. I would personally want to help but would need to know how. Please keep up your good work its people like you who keep the flame burning in troubled times

  • Etsuko says:

    This interview brought back some memories of the time I worked for one of the UN organizations. What she said about UN is sadly true – often UN organization’s big part of budget goes to the overhead. I can also understand how she feels about their lifestyle in the field.

    I also found it interesting that one of the popular DVDs there is West Wing. I recently re-watched some seasons and I do think that it’s a very well-written, entertaining show.

    Hope Christine continues to find a balance and fulfillment in her work, both professionally and personally. I wish to do my part and keep informing myself about what is going on.

  • Laura says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this conversation. I appreciate that greatly and will be forwarding it to other friends I know will like it.
    Much gratitude and happiness to you both and all.

  • Erica says:

    Thanks for taking the initiative to doing this interview, Chris. As someone living in the Western World, it’s not always easy to get a good grasp of how the current situation looks like and what’s really going on.

    I particularly liked that she drew attention to those shockingly high salaries, money that could have been used to something more constructive. Reminds me of an article I read not too long ago about a manager for a Swedish aid organization. I was rather taken aback when I saw her monthly salary.

    Anyhow, while ‘Christine’ shows pessimism for the short term, I hope the situation will improve for the better in the long term.

  • Kevin M says:

    What else to say but terrific interview and I feel lucky every time I read these types of stories that I exist in a country mostly free from these types of hardships. I can’t even begin to imagine the day to day struggle Christine must face in her position. My work seems pretty small in comparison. Kudos to her and her colleagues.

  • Kristin says:

    Thank you. I appreciate hearing an account from someone working “on the ground” in this troubled region. Sudan is an area of interest for me. I have read some on the conflict, but there is so much I don’t know. As was said, conflicts can be very complex, and often tensions only become bloody conflicts when there is fear and a desperation to survive due to limited resources and opportunities. I would be very interested to hear ongoing reports from the Sudan, more accounts such as these from AONC, and how best to help in a practical and accessible way. Thank you again to ‘Christine’ for your hard work there, and to AONC for bringing us this thoughtful interview.

  • Ilyas says:

    Wow, here’s another “lurker” out of the closet. This is the first article of this sort I’ve read on AONC, and I crave more. Thanks, Chris and Christine. It is quite sad that most of us are starved of this nuanced insider perspective.

    Chris, I (and it seems a lot of others) would absolutely love it if you could seek out more interviews like this, from various “mysterious” parts of the world. I realize this would stretch the scope of this website a bit, but it does broadly fit the theme.

    If not, does anyone know of blogs where we can read more of these sorts of perspectives? For now, I’m off to check out “Making Sense of Sudan.”

  • superzebraess says:

    Thanks so much for your inside look into Sudan and what is happening there, and beautiful photos too! I will certainly be spreading the word here as much as I can and encouraging everyone to educate themselves on international issues such as this. Thank you so much for the work you do.

  • Hugh says:

    Wow what a great interview. I’ve obviously read about the conflict and even own a “Save Darfur” t-shirt that I received for donating, but reading about this from Christine’s first-hand perspective (as opposed to mass media) makes it more real. Thanks for such great insight!

  • 'Nette says:

    I saved this in my inbox, determined to find a moment to read it in full, and I’m so glad I did. Thanks, Chris, and thanks to a delightfully candid, eager-to-enlighten interviewee.

  • Seifeldin Mustafa Dirar says:

    As a Sudanese citizen closing following eveything written about Sudan conflicts by western media, I would admit that this is the first time I come accross such people – both the interviewer and interviewee- who are eager to adhere to the truth of what was and is going on in Sudan. If all NGO workers have same courage and sincerity of Christina, I believe things could have been far better than they are now.

    From my close follow up to the Darfur problem, I have a feeling that this will very soon turn into a scandal to those who are insisting to maintain the false picture they reflected from the beginning. Chris, for sure is hiding her real name from these people more than from the Sudanese government. Thank you again, interviewer and interviewee.

  • Kylie says:

    Thank you for such an interesting, informative article. As others have said above, it’s rare to see such an honest, open article about a situation such as this. I too, as an educated young person, really had no idea about what’s going on over there.

    I’m disappointed to read about the UN behaviour, however. Although I’d read about the UN having some inefficiencies, I did not realise the scope.

    Thanks again, you’ve really opened my eyes, and added to my motivation of a. working in remote/unpopular places and b. making a positive impact.

  • kyeho says:

    I lived and worked in southern Sudan in 1976-77 which is a very long time ago. It is a fascinating country and very unsafe for women even today I would imagine?? At the time I was involved in rescuing wildlife. Good luck to your anonymous correspondent and thank you for her perspective on life today in the Sudan. Keep well and stay lucky while you are there!

  • Excellent interview, thank you. I have a fairly specific follow up question for Christine. I was dismayed (but not surprised) at her assessment of the UN. I’m currently a monthly donor to the UNHCR and after reading this interview am considering giving my money directly to the NGO’s that do the front line work. Christine, can you recommend an NGO that does the actual work on the ground that I can donate to?

    By the way, I’ve worked with Sudanese people in my role as a settlement support worker for refugees in Australia and I couldn’t agree more about the 100 nicest people comment!

  • Aid Worker in Sudan says:

    Thanks for the wonderful feedback.
    @Katherine – http://www.state.gov/g/prm/108686.htm – This will give you a list of NGOs that the BPRM (money that is specifically for refugees) funds, as well as information about refugee crises. The link I gave is specifically for Africa but you can backtrack and learn about other areas.

    @TD – If you ever figure out how to change the government mindset, let me know. As for funding Sudanese, it is incredibly difficult due to sanctions. However, agencies like CAFOD, Plan International, and Norwegian Church Aid work in partnership with local NGOs, building their capacity.

    @ Abby – If you want to get involved working in a development context, start with volunteering for non-profit organizations in your area and/or going on volunteer trips, like a Habitat for Humanity build. Or, if you wish to make a longer term commitment, many countries have programs like the Peace Corps.

  • Aid Worker in Sudan says:

    @maria – re emotional toll – I try to focus on the task at hand and concentrate on the positive outcomes. It’s also important to find a balance and an outlet for the stress.

    @sloan – re educational background – I don’t think it is the education that sends you down this path. I’ve met people from all sorts of backgrounds. I think the ideal person would have a technical undergraduate degree (engineering, health, accounting, logistics), a graduate degree with a management component (project or people), and a Peace Corps type of experience to provide the cultural understanding and ability to live in hardship locations.

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