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Jessica Alexander arrived in Rwanda in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide as an idealistic intern, eager to contribute to the work of the international humanitarian aid community. But the world that she encountered in the field was dramatically different than anything she could have imagined. It was messy, chaotic, and difficult—but she was hooked.
In this honest and irreverent memoir, she introduces readers to the realities of life as an aid worker. We watch as she manages a 24,000-person camp in Darfur, collects evidence for the Charles Taylor trial in Sierra Leone, and contributes to the massive aid effort to clean up a shattered Haiti. But we also see the alcohol-fueled parties and fleeting romances, the burnouts and self-doubt, and the struggle to do good in places that have long endured suffering.
Tracing her personal journey from wide-eyed and naïve newcomer to hardened cynic and, ultimately, to hopeful but critical realist, Alexander transports readers to some of the most troubled locations around the world and shows us not only the seemingly impossible challenges, but also the moments of resilience and recovery.
Over the past 12 years, Jessica Alexander has worked in humanitarian operations for the United Nations and various NGOs. She has been part of operations in Rwanda, Darfur, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Myanmar, South Sudan, Pakistan, Haiti and the Horn of Africa. Alexander is a Fulbright Scholar who received the award to research child soldiers in Sierra Leone in 2006. Her research there was used as expert evidence in the case against Charles Taylor, former President of Libera.
Alexander is an Adjunct Professor at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service, and the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs at Fordham University. She received a Masters of Public Health and Masters of International Affairs from Columbia University in 2005. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, focusing her research on accountability in humanitarian action.
She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY and works for the United Nations.