Are You Ready to Be an International Aid Worker?

Red Cross international aid workers on the field

Working and living conditions in the field vary from one location to another. Depending on the circumstances, international aid and emergency response workers may work without many of the comforts, support network and basic infrastructure to which we are accustomed. The following questions may not be true for every delegate mission, but are meant as a guide to help in assessing your readiness to work and live as a delegate.

Being an international aid worker means you will be away from friends and family for extended periods, possibly with very little contact.


Can I put my personal life in Canada on hold to work overseas? 

Am I prepared to have little or no contact with loved ones for extended durations?

Would my family, significant other, and/or close friends support my decision? What are their concerns and how would their reaction impact my decision?

Is my personal motivation for working overseas healthy? Am I trying to escape from issues and problems that may be better dealt with by staying in Canada?

The environments in which aid workers work are often demanding and can be stressful.


Do I have excellent mental and physical health to stand the rigours of a highly stressful environment and possibly poor living conditions?

Do I practice self-discipline in eating, exercise, and sleep?

Is my ability to cope with stress strong? Do I use healthy means such as physical exercise or confiding in colleagues? 

Do I have optimistic, healthy self-esteem and solid sense of self?

Am I resilient and flexible in most situations?

Living situations vary depending on the mission – you might find yourself in isolated accommodations or living in close quarters with a number of other people. In addition, you may be without the comforts to which you are accustomed. Security restrictions may limit where you can go, what you can do and when you can do it.


Am I comfortable living in isolated surroundings with very limited contact with others of a similar cultural background? Can I live in shared accommodation in close quarters with others?

How comfortable am I in situations where I may not be able to readily access the internet or contact my friends and families overseas?

How do I feel about living/working in areas of insecurity where my life may be in danger?

Am I willing to follow strict security rules and regulations?

Can I adapt my daily routines to situations where my movement is tightly restricted?

Consider the professional impact of a mission. In particular, aid workers on the emergency roster will be required to depart on short notice.


Can I put my professional life in Canada 'on hold' on short notice? Am I willing to look for new work upon return or to be unemployed for periods of time while not on mission?

Would my employer support my decision? Are my colleagues willing to make adjustments to their workload to accommodate my absence?

Does my employer understand that I will need time to re-adjust upon my return, and that my perspectives on our work may shift?

If self-employed, am I willing and able to risk losing business clients due to my absence or are there other contingency plans I must put into place?

Our aid workers work alongside our National Society partners and must respect and adapt to different cultures and work styles. They face unfamiliar situations, ambiguous information and may be working without direct or readily available supervision. They may be required to work long hours for days or weeks at a time, especially in emergency situations.


Do I have the required professional qualifications and work experience?

Do I thrive when working in a multi-cultural environment and accept the challenge of adapting to different cultures and work styles? Can I work/live with people whose heritage, values, beliefs etc. are different from my own?

Do I set realistic goals? Can I handle failure as well as success? Can I stay focused on the tasks at hand when faced with many other unmet and compelling needs?

Am I self motivated and able to work independently and make sound decisions without consultation, even in unfamiliar or ambiguous situations?

Do I work well in a team, respect the role every member plays and operate cooperatively?

Do I have the ability to work long hours on a continual basis, if required?

Am I able to adapt quickly to fast-paced, changing environments? 

All aid workers must understand and commit to the Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross/Crescent Movement and recognize that while on assignment they are a representative of the Red Cross 24-hours a day and adhere to these principles at all time. This sometimes means putting personal, religious or political beliefs aside.


Do I have an understanding of the Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, particularly neutrality and impartiality, and of their practical application?

Do I have personal, religious, or political beliefs that might conflict with these principles?

Can I put my personal beliefs aside and assume the Fundamental Principles as my own at all times while on mission?