5 surprising things about life as a relief worker

Relief work is full of surprises. The mix of cultural backgrounds, living environments, and types of work means unexpected challenges and joys are just part of the job.

Relief work is full of surprises. The mix of cultural backgrounds, living environments, and types of work means unexpected challenges and joys are just part of the job.

We asked our international team in DR Congo what has surprised them the most about life as relief workers, and here’s what they had to say:


IT'S SO HARD TO DESCRIBE WHAT I DO

“I was surprised to find how difficult it sometimes is to explain exactly what I am doing as a relief worker. Much of my work resembles that of my peers in the business world back in my home country. However, some parts of our work remain wildly different.

For example, the stakes are high because our success is measured in the number of lives saved and improved. Personal safety becomes a daily concern and all team members must be accounted for by the end of the day. Creativity is a must to navigate the constant constraints, such as how I will deliver my reports on time despite my team’s remoteness and inconsistent electricity and internet supply.

This all makes it tough to explain my job because it spans both the relatable and the unimaginable.”

Jemimah C., 31


I WORK AT A DESK MORE THAN YOU'D THINK

“I was surprised at first to spend so much time at my desk, working on my computer doing project planning and reporting. Also, as nearly every action requires justification by another member of the team and a signature of their approval, I am amazed at the amount of paperwork created and processed by the team each week. I guess that’s the cost of accountability and transparency!”


PERSEVERANCE IS PART OF THE JOB DESCRIPTION

“I was surprised to find how resilient, patient, and uncomplaining people are when faced with challenges, whether in work or life. They don’t give up easily. They manage to retain a sense of humour and ability to celebrate good times, even when circumstances are mostly difficult. This has caused me to reflect on my own reactions when things aren’t going so well.”

Jemimah C., 31