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Comdev seminar at RLabs 0

Comdev seminar at RLabs

Posted by on 10th May, 2014

One of my personal highlights of our recent trip to South Africa was the discussion I had with (former) aid worker and author Jillian Reilly. We took her biography as the starting to discuss aid work as a career, entering the industry before it really was one, becoming a reflective practitioner, leaving the industry and writing a very interesting book about it all. I will start with my review before introducing our discussion. Shame – Confessions of an aid worker in Africa Books on aid work and aid workers are an important genre for my book reviews. What intrigued me with Jillian Reilly’s book right from the start was that it avoids the crisis-hopping Bosnia-to-Rwanda-to-Afghanistan-to-Haiti routine that often goes hand in hand with the humanitarian theatre of parties, adrenaline, coordination meetings and some sort of unkempt romantic entanglement. Jillian focuses on more mundane development work and her personal journey from an eager volunteer in the first South African election after the end of Apartheid to being (or maybe more precisely: being identified) as an ‘HIV/AIDS expert’ in Zimbabwe. In some ways it is a typical aid worker biography, but that does not make it any less readable in the context of reflecting on aid worker, their expertise and the...

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Northwestern alum shares criticisms of global aid industry 0

Northwestern alum shares criticisms of global aid industry

Posted by on 6th May, 2014

Jillian Reilly returned to Northwestern Tuesday evening after more than two decades in the global aid industry to share a skeptic eye on humanitarianism. The event, titled “Confessions of an Aid Worker in Africa,” was held in Harris Hall and co-sponsored by the Buffett Center, the Program of African Studies and One Book One Northwestern. For about 30 minutes, Reilly (Weinberg ’92) spoke about the often pessimistic reality of the aid industry. The event was named after her latest book, “Shame – Confessions of an Aid Worker in Africa,” which she said was a “coming-of-age story” that documents her memories in Africa. Reilly said she took off to South Africa during its final apartheid days to intern as an aid worker. With a fresh degree in African history and English literature, she started off working to facilitate the historic 1994 South Africa elections before moving on to tackle projects across Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe, which she pursued for the next 15 years. Her decision in 2000 to return to the U.S., abandoning working overseas, was out of disillusionment of an industry that she said was “more part of a problem than a solution.” Now, she gives talks on building an understanding between “the developed and the developing.” “What...

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