Tales From the Hood is now closed – I will no longer post or update to this site. Until further notice, find me here (click on logo):Evil Genius Logo

Or also here: AidSpeak

For posterity I’m leaving the majority of these posts public. If you think you should be able to take a peek at protected posts drop me a line.

Tales From the Hood was a humanitarian aid blog. It is a collection of more or less real-time stories, reflection and opinion about life inside the humanitarian aid industry… from some of the worst neighborhoods in the global village.

Tales From the Hood is a series of essays about my own inner struggle to balance being a full-on unapologetic professional aid worker while also staying eyes-open to the inconsistency, dilemma, paradox and sometimes plain absurdity that very clearly exist in the humanitarian aid industry.

While this blog is mainly observation and reflection, I do reserve the right to take on technical, theoretical or ethical issues as my mood dictates. I also reserve the right to stand on a soap-box, rant, self-contradict, reverse my opinion, argue opposite points from one post to the next, and digress at will.

Tales From the Hood is a “read at your own risk” blog. Sometimes I have unpopular opinions that I am not shy about sharing. Sometimes I rant, use sarcasm as a literary device, or just get plain snarky. You’ve been warned.


  • I take it as a given that humanitarian aid is a “good thing” (some obvious failings and a few spectacularly bad aid projects notwithstanding). If you want unbridled criticism of humanitarian aid, read The Daily Mail.
  • Views expressed in Tales From the Hood reflect my views and mine alone – not those of my employer (present) or employers (past, plural).

Why is this blog called Tales From the Hood? It started as an inside joke based on the name of a 1995 urban horror film: My friends and I were always getting sent to the roughest neighborhoods of the “global village.” When I started blogging in about 2006, Tales From the Hood was my immediate first choice. This blog has gone through several face-lifts, re-starts, and a transition from blogspot to wordpress.

About Me. I have worked in the field of international aid, relief and development since the early 1990s when I got my first aid job in Asia. Since then I’ve held both head/support office positions in the U.S.A. as well as field based positions. To-date my career has been approximately evenly divided between field and HQ posts.

In different roles my work has taken me throughout Asia, the Middle East, the Former Soviet Union, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America. I have worked for very large INGOs whose names you’d immediately recognize, and also tiny little ones that you’ve almost certainly never heard of.

At different times I have been stranded, mugged, shot at, deathly ill, upgraded, dissed, pampered, promoted, in the vicinity of bomb blasts, detained, reprimanded, micro-managed, empowered, and ignored.

I have a real humanitarian aid job. Blogging about humanitarian aid (aid blogging) is something I do because I find it cathartic.

I co-blog at Stuff Expat Aid Workers Like.

You can send me email at talesfromethehood@gmail.com

Thank you for reading.

26 Responses to “About”

  1. Saga 28 July, 2009 at 10:56 pm #

    Nice refreshing and informative blog, as a fellow humanitarian worker I very much appreciate your clarity and honesty!

  2. sgjdv09 22 September, 2009 at 1:01 pm #

    I like this blog I think its pretty funny and thankfully its informative. I am interested in getting involved in international relief and development and I would appreciate any and all assistance. If you would like to correspond directly please feel free to email at lexilak@hotmail.com. In the meantime I will keep reading.🙂

  3. Serge 5 February, 2010 at 12:18 pm #

    Hi, thank you for the great posts on Haiti. I came across your page when I was looking for information on “How to volunteer in Haiti”. Your Blood and Milk page answered a lot of questions I had.

    Where I am from, the young adults up here are disconnected with the real world out there. I want to get a group of young adults to volunteer in Haiti and help rebuild, clean up, educate kids and interact with Haitians this summer. Our skill levels are limited however these youth would extremely benefit from learning from such an experience. I am in communication with NGO on Haitian ground and I am looking for work 1-2 work jobs for these young adults. I don’t want to play the tourist game, I want to help. We will be doing our own fundraisers so we can reduce our cost and pay for some project cost. What type of work or involvement do you suggest for a group like mine? Would you say, stay away from Jacmel and PAP and focus on remote locations or the reverse?

    Any information would be appreciated.

    Thank you

    • J. 5 February, 2010 at 5:07 pm #

      I think you need to re-read some of those “great posts”, because one central message very clearly has not registered for you: DO NOT COME TO HAITI.

      One thing Haiti absolutely does not need more of is yet another group of young adults with limited skills, who are disconnected from the real world out there (your words, not mine).

      This is a disaster zone. The relief effort here is (or should be) about Haitians. It is absolutely inappropriate for your young adults to come “benefit from learning from such an experience” in Haiti right now.

      Stay away from Jacmel. Stay away from PaP. Stay away from Haiti.

      Please let me know if this is somehow unclear.

  4. Dave 5 February, 2010 at 11:32 pm #

    Dear J-
    Are you more concerned with helping Haitians, or proving how cool you are? If you were concerned with helping, you would be specific about what people could do to help. Instead, you snark out at someone who makes themselves vulnerable to you.

    I don’t know Serge, or anything about him, but I see a real tone of one-up-manship in the articles by you and Allana.

    I’m not going to ask for your suggestions about what I could do in my US community to help, and I”m not going to ask for your approval or feedback, or withering, uber-clever putdowns. I have some ideas, and I think they are good ones.

    What we DO need is cooperation, not snarky competition. Is that a skill you possess? If not, willing to develop it?

    • J. 6 February, 2010 at 5:28 am #

      I’m guessing that we mean different things when we talk about “helping”…

      But I’m totally stoked to be put in the same category as Alanna. Thanks for that!

  5. c_sez 6 February, 2010 at 8:01 am #

    Shorter Dave: I’ve been thinking about this for hours now, and I’ve definitely got a handle on this that you bozos (who’ve got decades of experience in making emergency relief and rehabilitation happen, often with tough budget constraints and zero media attention or public support) have overlooked. I’m not going to tell you what it is, because I already don’t like hearing anything I disagree with.

    J’s been a model of restraint, but I’ll do some snark if you’re predisposed to read that into responses anyway.

  6. worldtreestories 11 February, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

    Just wanted to say hi. I’m a relatively new reader, but I find your posts really funny and interesting. Thanks!

  7. edwardrees 22 February, 2010 at 6:54 am #

    Great blog. Bloody great blog. Just signed up.

  8. appropedia 3 March, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

    I came here because Alanna spoke highly of you. I like what I see so far.

    Have you thought about an open license for your blog? We’re working on a knowledge bank, a kind of reference for aid and development workers, among other things. Having your writings to use in that (with attribution of course) would boost this effort.

    By way of exlanation… An introduction to Creative Commons

    Chris Watkins

  9. Joy 17 March, 2010 at 7:01 am #

    I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now and really appreciate how candid you and revealing you are about the field. I am interested in getting involved in relief work and was wondering if you would share some insight. I would love if you would email me. Thanks

  10. Ally 30 March, 2010 at 3:35 pm #

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog. As a young and naive college student, your posts and those of others in the field has made me realize what a difficult (and sometimes even rewarding) line of work I want to enter. One question that remains on my mind, however is this: What would you argue is the single most important international organization in health?

    • J. 30 March, 2010 at 4:51 pm #


      First, thank you for reading!

      Second, yes, difficult. And also very rewarding. Just not always both at the same time….

      Third, I’m going to recommend that you ask an actual health specialist (I’d personally start with Alanna over at “Blood & Milk”) for recommendations about which organizations are most important in the health sector. I’m just a relief cowboy…😉

  11. rahconteur 23 August, 2010 at 12:30 am #

    Nice stuff. Carry on.

  12. Anonymous 12 September, 2010 at 5:14 pm #

    yes, carry on.
    I believe I have my first blog-crush.

  13. anonymous 14 February, 2011 at 8:49 am #

    “Tales From the Hood is a “read at your own risk” blog. Sometimes I have unpopular opinions that I am not shy about sharing. Sometimes I rant, use sarcasm as a literary device, or just get plain snarky.”

    Thank god. I’ve been on the internet for years, and the whole time I’ve been asking: where is the snark? Where are the rants? Can the person be anonymous? Thank god your blog is here to fill this gap.

  14. Mo 30 April, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    Hi, longtime reader, first-time commenter. First off, this is a fantastic blog (found it through handrelief, which I also find great). I never really knew how big the blogging community is in the aid sector, and I’ve spent quite some time looking for the “real” side of aid on the internets. Somehow missed you guys at first.

    Anyway, I’m a student in logistics and transport management (although a large part of it is business studies, a lot is also practical stuff) and am especially interested in disaster relief. No, I don’t find it romantic or some such cack. I have no wish to arrive in, say, Haiti as a young man who would benefit from the experience. I want to bring logistical know-how and actually help… somehow? Question: is that even a realistic idea? Is that something that’s needed? Whenever my (admittedly quite small) nation sends help somewhere they’re often logisticians for the Red Cross etc… but they’re not people who went to college to learn their logistics.

    For the life of me I can’t really seem to get an honest answer. It’s always “oh yeah awesome”, but Vienna is full of UN and Caritas workers who would encourage anyone to go, preferably by paying some half-baked volunteer org to be “teachers” in Ghana or Sri Lanka without any training at all. I should know, I did it. The only thing I learned volunteering was that any lessons I gave as a 19 year old were worthless in the grand scheme of things. What’s your opinion on those pseudo-NGOs by the way?

    Anyway, keep up the good work, and if you answer my rather long comment I would be honoured!

  15. sydney 23 May, 2011 at 7:37 am #

    Hey J!

    Can you blog about books to read? Development/Relief must reads? Would love it!

  16. Traveltaster 13 October, 2011 at 1:08 am #

    Good value read on a tough subject. Thanks for your insight. Long may you vent! Cheers.


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