Life after aid work: When the ground begins to shake

When this picture was taken in 1991, Nate Rabe was three years into his career as an international aid worker. He has his arm around Kak Mohammad, a Kurdish community leader in the Penjwin area of Iraqi Kurdistan where he was working. Photo courtesy of the author

A vague career roadmap I drafted after finishing my master’s in the late ‘80s had me ending up as a history professor. Having grown up in India and wanting to stay engaged in South Asian issues, the ivory tower seemed the most logical and easily realized option.

But chance intervened. In early 1988, I ditched my academic future in favor of a job offer from the United Nations. Within the span of a few months I went from having only a vague notion that “aid work” was a job category to heading up a large urban refugee program in Pakistan. It wasn’t until years later that I realized what a fluke it had been — to land a job in one of the more “sexy” careers in the world on my first attempt without so much as a face-to-face interview.

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About the author

  • Oped naterabe

    Nate Rabe

    Nate Rabe, an India born American/Australian, began his aid career in the late 1980s with the U.N. in Pakistan. For nearly 30 years he worked in senior roles in the field and in the headquarters of international NGOs including Mercy Corps, Oxfam, Save the Children and the Red Cross. He recently decided to leave the aid sector to pursue his writing and photography, a process he documents in his blog Life After Aid. His second novel, "The Shah of Chicago" is due to be published later in 2016. He currently lives and works out of Melbourne Australia.