What would you take with you if you were going to be working away from home for weeks or months at a time?

For people who carry out humanitarian work in places affected by conflict, the choice of what to pack is probably the least difficult of all the decisions they have to make.

Aid workers do jobs that often involve facing ethical dilemmas and making hard choices that can have a huge impact on the communities that they are trying to help.

Find out what four aid workers take with them when they work away from their homes and families - and how they relax when they are not working.

You can discover more about their stories and see some of the objects they use in the field at Aid Workers: Ethics Under Fire at IWM North.

Dr Natalie Roberts

MSF identity card issued to Dr Natalie Roberts in 2015, when she was the Emergency Coordinator for MSF’s response in Yemen.
MSF identity card issued to Dr Natalie Roberts in 2015, when she was the Emergency Coordinator for MSF’s response in Yemen.

Dr Natalie Roberts

Emergency Operations Manager, Médecins San Frontières (MSF)

“When I first went, I had a big bag. You know 20kg maximum, I had all sorts of books and things like that....Then, quite quickly, my bag has got smaller and smaller and smaller. I spent six months in Syria, in winter, with quite a small rucksack actually. I wasn’t planning to be there for six months. I was planning to be there for a couple of weeks, but in the end I spent six months with quite a small rucksack.

 I don’t travel with much stuff. What I always have is music, some way of playing music. I always have earplugs because, otherwise, you often don’t sleep at night. I always have something to read, that’s not related to work. I’ll have a book or a Kindle or an iPad or something."

Jane Drichta

Jane Drichta is Director of the Global Motherhood Initiative  (GMI), which worked with displaced Yezidi women in Khanke Camp, northern Iraq providing midwifery and mental health support.
Jane Drichta is Director of the Global Motherhood Initiative (GMI), which worked with displaced Yezidi women in Khanke Camp, northern Iraq providing midwifery and mental health support.

Jane Drichta

Director, Global Motherhood initiative

"A lot of dry shampoo, we often don’t have water, when your hair looks good, you feel better. I try not to take too much. I take a lot of donations, I take a lot of things that we can buy cheaper in the west and take over.. drugs usually.. I take photos of my family on my phone, notes that people have written to me, sometimes it’s nice to look back and remember that you have touched people’s lives and it’s not all just one slog after another."

Gareth Owen

Karrimor rucksack used by Gareth Owen. Gareth has been an aid worker for almost 30 years, taking this rucksack on many of his most challenging assignments.
Karrimor rucksack used by Gareth Owen. Gareth has been an aid worker for almost 30 years, taking this rucksack on many of his most challenging assignments.

Gareth Owen

Humanitarian Director, Save the Children UK

"Often pictures from home is something that people carry with them. You know, your loved ones are a long way away. You feel it. They worry more about you than you worry about them, in all honesty, because you’re so caught up in something. But, for me, I carry a picture of my partner of 21 years in my wallet. I always have to have that close to me. And, these days, it’s your phone. You know, you can’t go anywhere without your smartphone and the ability to go online."  

Ashish Damle

Still photograph of aid worker Ashish Damle
Ashish Damle works in Afghanistan for War Child UK

Ashish Damle

War Child UK, Country Director for Afghanistan

"There is no place to socialise, people have to meet secretly on different times, you have to keep changing your times. So it has become really very restricted environment at the moment.. Every individual finds a way out, to deal with that situation in the evening. I sometimes keep playing with my Rubik Cubes. I like to solve puzzles, so I do that. I spend time in the kitchen, I use YouTube videos and try out different recipes, then reading books, watching movies sometimes."

VISIT THE EXHIBITION

Lebanon, Baalbek district, Arsal refugee camp. Aid workers.
© ICRC/Hussein Baydoun Lebanon, Baalbek district, Arsal refugee camp.

VISIT THE EXHIBITION

Faced with practical, emotional and ethical challenges on a daily basis, how do aid workers choose who to help and decide which risks to take, and can their presence do more harm than good?

Aid Workers: Ethics Under Fire brings together powerful stories from conflict zones to explore these challenges from an insider perspective.

At IWM North from 2 October.

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