Why do Humanitarian Workers leave to the Field? – Challenges, Motives and Realities

In this thesis, I listen carefully to the experience of humanitarian workers whom I met and worked with as colleagues or friends. I explore several questions: why do humanitarian workers choose this line of profession, which very often implies taking high risks? How do aid workers feel? In addition to altruism, what is their motivation based on? How does this job impact them and their families? I introduce the readers to the notion of humanitarianism, as well as its history, challenges and prospects. Then, I discuss the possible motives that could drive many aid workers to choose this line of work. Later, I explore the other side of the coin, a side that includes some of the possible drawbacks linked with the nature of this job. I aim to cover some of the aspects that could impact the life of humanitarian workers during and after their missions in the field. Some of my chapters in the thesis have pictures of people, places, and important events that reflect different moments and experiences. It is a contribution to the storytelling process and to ensure an engaging turn with the readers.


Since my second semester in the MA Program in Peace Studies at the University of Innsbruck, I was already thinking about which topic to research. I wanted to write a thesis that conveys a purely and deep personal experience yet at the same time respecting and meeting the academic requirements. Researching intangible and subjective notions, such as the motivation of humanitarian workers, was an overwhelming experience. The humanitarian work is a realm of motives, dreams, personal stories, hopes, laughs and tears. I am eternally grateful for the experience to have worked as a humanitarian worker. I kept it as a living force, a tool for a living a good life and for making a change I always sought.

Image Sources:

  • MoP: Owned by the author
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