Chasing Chaos is Jessica Alexander’s story of the years she spent as a humanitarian aid worker in, among other places, Rwanda, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Indonesia, and Haiti.
I had reservations about this book, I’ll admit. I don’t want to read “look at me and all the amazing things I did” stories and I was worried that this would be that. I worried for nothing. Alexander is careful to make sure the readers know that while possibly noble and, for lack of a better phrase, humanitarian her intentions are there are as many times that life is still crappy as they are that she was able to make a real difference.
Her presence in the refugee camps in Darfur didn’t result in people being able to move out of the camps. In fact, after she left the population of the camp she was at skyrocketed. But she helped thirsty children get clean water, help women be safer when they collect firewood, and help men remain leaders in their village communities so that life can continue with as much normalcy as possible.
It’s much the same in the other places she works, and I’m sure in the places any humanitarian aid worker works.
What’s most compelling about this story is how eye-opening it is. We’ve all seen the telethons to raise funds for the 2004 tsunami, Hurricane Sandy, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti… and we give our $10 to the Red Cross or whomever through our smartphones. We call ourselves do-gooders, say we did all that we can, and go about our lives. I’m not saying that everyone needs to volunteer for a year in some war-torn place, because those places don’t need or want all of us there.
I’m only saying that we need to remember that just because the telethon ends and Anderson Cooper packs up and goes back to New York and his cushy studio, that doesn’t mean the humanitarian need is over.
There are still people living in tents in Haiti. They had an outbreak of cholera there in 2012 that killed over eight thousand people. You didn’t know that, did you? They could still use your $10 there.
The one section of Chasing Chaos that absolutely floored me was what Alexander said at the end about total donations and that while $17 billion went to humanitarian aid causes in 2012. That seems like a lot but it’s nothing compared to how much was spent on the London Olympics in 2012. Sometimes I worry about I priorities. I know we need things like the Olympics but I don’t understand why they have to cost so much when that money could be so incredibly useful somewhere else…
I think everyone needs to read this book.
I won an advance reading copy of Chasing Chaos by Jessica Alexander in a Goodreads giveaway.
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