How Aid Works-logo

How Aid Works

18 Favorites

More Information




How do you stop an epidemic that’s already killed the local doctors? How do you solve a problem like 80,000 refugees and no toilets? How do you pipe safe drinking water into a village with no roads and no electricity? In this podcast, Australian Red Cross aid workers talk about the challenges of providing aid – in the crises that make the news and the ones that don’t. If you’ve ever donated to an aid agency or wanted to be an aid worker, this is the show for you.






Congratulations! You’re forever a misfit

The mission’s over. Time to catch up with your mates and a season’s worth of Game of Thrones. Except that people treat you differently after you’ve worked in an Ebola zone. And you’ll never watch the news in the same way again. Aid work leaves its unique stamp on you.

Duration: 00:32:02

Advice to my younger self

Learn to manage risk, because someone will shoot at you. Stop being so damn idealistic. Sit back and listen. There are no heroes, least of all you. Our guests share advice they wish they’d heard when they started their careers in aid work.

Duration: 00:23:16


What could possibly go wrong on a relief mission? Well… border disputes, power outages, strikes, random epidemics, natural disasters, insurgencies, rains shutting down roads and governments being overthrown. You’ll see why aid work needs an indomitable spirit.

Duration: 00:30:30

Love in the hot zone

Listen up, Humanitarians of Tinder! It can be hard to maintain relationships with family, let alone find love, when you’re going from mission to mission in high-security zones. We talk honestly about the birds, the bees and the precautions.

A water stop in an apocalypse

How do you feel watching families flee in an apocalyptic sea of people? How do you cope with an Ebola nightmare sweeping before your eyes? And what passes through your mind when you witness an exploding donkey amid drought and violence?

The coffin on the bus and other tales of horror

Sometimes you’re faced with a carful of corpses. Sometimes you have to drive the body of a bomb victim home to her parents. Sometimes you have to treat an illness so contagious that other doctors have already died. We discover what it’s like to be an emergency health worker… and why you should always pack a scarf in your travel bag.

4 minutes to save the world

Every minute is a matter of life or death when a disaster strikes or a conflict breaks out. Aid workers are in a race against time: whether to treat the ill and injured before it’s too late or get relief supplies to inaccessible locations. Our guests explain how order emerges from chaos.

A week of terror and inadequacy

This week we look at your very first mission as an aid worker: whether it’s Pakistan after an earthquake, a refugee camp in South Sudan or a tiny Tongan island. We reflect on how expectation differs from reality and how you see the world afterwards.

Duration: 00:24:45

Earthquake, war, famine, flood … interested?

It’s a job you can’t wait to leave and can’t wait to return to. We look at how to break into the field of humanitarian aid work, with an honest assessment of how to survive this terrifying, frustrating, addictive job.

Duration: 07:26:34

We’ll Do It Our Way, Thanks

The Philippines has been battered by three super-typhoons in the last three years. It’s not surprising that they’ve become very good at dealing with them. Catherine Gearing unpacks the success factors that have dramatically reduced the death rate from Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 to Typhoon Koppu in 2015.

The Pitter-Patter of Ebola Vomit

How well did our humanitarians face the big disasters of last year – the disease outbreaks, the earthquakes, the conflicts that created a global refugee crisis? Steve McAndrew, who led Red Cross responses to most of these crises, offers us insight, gruesome stories and his personal hopes for humanity.


How do you solve a problem like 85,000 people and no toilets? We ask sanitation engineer James Godbee about solutions devised in the field, on the run, to solve the unexpected challenges that can arise in humanitarian aid.

Heart-Stopping Moments

A simple road trip means negotiating safe passage with militants. A child’s stuffed crocodile contains his only hope. A soldier comes to understand what the red cross really means. Here’s what it’s like to lead an aid mission in a high-security environment like Nigeria or Afghanistan.


In the wake of a disaster, everything you’ve learned about child protection comes sharply into focus. In Nepal, Sally Chapman found destroyed schools, lingering trauma, forced marriage and trafficking, as well as incredibly resilient children who helped their families to survive and cope.

Good Water After Bad

Your challenge: get safe drinking water to an island where a cyclone has destroyed all the water tanks and an active volcano is spewing ash everywhere. Water engineer Gordon Ewers talks about racing against time, winning a chicken, climbing towers to avoid a tsunami and why he sleeps on dirt floors.

Regulating Good Intentions

What should you send a country that’s been hit by a disaster? Here’s a tip from Finau Limuloa: don’t send bras. In fact, don’t send anything. Finau unpacks the concept of disaster law and its vital role in making aid effective.

Duration: 00:10:16

What’s a Humanitarian When It’s At Home?

It's not a great time to be a humanitarian. Around the world, they're being shot at, sent home or silenced. Vicki Mau and Christoph Hensch are 'professional humanitarians': Vicki inspects detention centres and Christoph sends people overseas to provide health care in armed conflicts. We talk about what it means – and what it costs – to be humanitarian.

Duration: 00:26:28

No Really, I'm Fine

How emotionally healthy are people who spend their working lives in disaster zones? And if that’s your career path, how do you manage your stress? Psychologist Claire Groves, recently returned from the Nepal earthquake relief operation, offers some personal insights.

How Quickly the World Went to Hell

In Sydney, a massive outbreak of armed violence forced millions of people – students, doctors, artists, shopkeepers – to flee for their lives, to any place where they were no longer being shot at. No, wait. Not Sydney. Syria. But as Toni Stokes explains, the parallels are terrifying.

Modern Family: Kathmandu

The Nepal earthquake changed families in profound ways. Most lost their homes. Some lost children or parents. Others reconnected with brothers or sons who left long ago. And a few special people formed their own family when no one else would have them. Jess Letch unravels a complex web of family ties and gender politics in a country that’s been shaken hard but still standing.
See More