Chasing Misery: an anthology of essays by women in humanitarian responses
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“What motivates any of us to do the work we do? And more importantly does that work make a difference?” This is the question film producer and founder of filmaid.org, Caroline Baron, reflects on when she calls Chasing Misery an “unblinking” account of what it’s like to be a woman on the front lines of global humanitarian responses. Twenty-one first person essays and 23 stunning photographs give readers a glimpse into the lives of real women who respond to emergencies—their hopes, fears, questions, challenges, frustrations as well as glimpses of the humour, beauty, and hope they find in the midst of misery.
than the faint movement of air that the fan was able to muster. I was sitting up in bed under the mosquito net, the rickety fan turned up to full power, my chin resting on my knees, watching old re-runs of American sitcoms on my laptop. Suddenly there was an incredibly loud and powerful bang, and I instinctively cowered and threw my arms above my head to protect myself. I could feel things falling down on me, bouncing off my legs and the bed, and I could feel the mosquito net drop down over
group a story. After a break, the group chooses one story, or a mixture of several stories, to tell to, or act out, for the entire group. They choose their own topics. If I am certain of anything, it is that you don’t force traumatised people to talk. If we talk, it is about other things, and if they proffer their stories of suffering, so be it. As the small groups, one by one, get up to present, they acknowledge me as the facilitator. Although they perform for everybody, I sense that their
cover this in emergency training. The woman beside me begins to speak to me, timidly, in Kiswahili. I do not understand. A young man translates for me into French. “She says that she thought they had come to a safe place, and yet the boy has died anyway. She wonders if he would still be alive if they had stayed in Congo. She wonders if all the danger they faced to come here was for nothing.” My head starts to spin. A man emerges from the cornstalks with a bible tucked under his arm.
Bangladesh. The second is in East Timor. With both you’d be alone in remote office most of the time. That’s not what you want, is it? So, that’s why I want to talk to you today about coming to Afghanistan.” Silence. I expected to have some sort of visceral, negative reaction. But instead, I was intrigued. There it was, the chance for a new disaster, a new hopeless case, a new fix to grab my motivation and reinvigorate my patience. “I’m listening,” I said. But, in truth, I was hardly
own walled off compounds—before curfew. We met again at weekly coordination meetings where we used to be briefed on new events and created task forces and working groups to deal with serious issues and to find strength by being together. It was there that we smiled at each other. After a couple of months, we were sharing the same house, the same sweet dog, the same Friday morning breakfast. Every evening I would go back home to the biggest hug I have ever had from the arms of that generous