The Anatomy of Humanitarian Expatriation

On pretty much any humanitarian mission, there are some aspects that will make you want to return to a normal life – we will call them centrifugal forces – while other elements will make you want to stay and continue to serve – we will refer to them as centripetal forces. Centrifugal and centripetal forces have by definition an opposite direction, when both are equally strong the result is indecision and stuckness.


Let’s take a look at these principal forces that tend to guide our decision making and explore what they tell us about the anatomy of humanitarian expatriation.


What makes you think “I’ve had my share”


Centrifugal forces are those that pull us away from the work we are doing, those that make us say “no more of this”. In the case of humanitarian expatriation, there are several centrifugal forces that draw us toward returning to a more stable, regular life. Let’s have a look at some of them.


One main reason comes out of the external environment surrounding the mission. Factors such as dire lack of security, violence, volatility, limited mobility and chronic limited access to standard goods can for sure make us feel the need for a more stable life.


Stress is also a major factor. The working environment often imposes pressure to manage projects, obtain new funds and handle very stressful emergencies. Although any profession brings its dose of stress and pressure, the humanitarian sector is certainly not short of it.


Additional factors include the lack of separation between work and personal life. In many cases, life is spent entirely with colleagues, at work with extensive hours, and often times after work when you colleagues are also your guesthouse mates.


On a personal level, when exposed to so much pressure and stress, it is easy to forget who we are. When giving so much of ourselves to an external cause, we can begin to forget what our own needs and desires are beyond our working lives.


Love and relationships are also part of the equation of course, when we have partners, children and families waiting for us back at home. At some point, the need might arise for us to return and settle down to raise our children and provide them with a stable life and quality education.


And what makes you say “One more…”


On the other hand, there are other factors, that we refer to as centripetal forces, that can pull us toward the work we are doing and make us want to stay and extend our expatriation experience. Let’s explore some of them.


Interested in reading more? Check out the rest of the post by Giulio Tamacoldi here!


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