My name is Brendan McDonald.
I am a humanitarian activist. I’m neither a paid up member of the chattering class nor a member of the chardonnay set.
I only dance when I am not sober.
After years of sitting around cafés and bars, debating how to improve the humanitarian system, I have finally decided to put pen to paper. Blogging offers me a wonderful creative outlet; it refreshes my perspective on life. In hindsight, a difficult day at the office turns out to be a learning experience, a chance for me to paint the most incomprehensible moments in my professional and personal life with fresh colours. It is something to savour with a single malt whiskey in my hand.
I was born and raised in Australia, and am fortunate enough to have both Australian and British passports. My father was Welsh, my mother is South African. I live in Annecy, France, and work in Geneva, Switzerland. Ultimately I want to find a place in the sun, my own Arcadia. I am yet to speak fluent French, although I have picked up a little bit of Arabic and Albanian along the way. At times I speak a little too quickly and have that unique Australian habit of dropping the last syllable from my senten…
Since 1999 I’ve worked in many countries, implementing aid programs, coordinating large-scale humanitarian responses, advising on humanitarian information management, and most importantly, learning and collaborating with passionate and amazing individuals. I have met strangers who, despite having been driven from their homes because of conflict or disaster, greet me with such warmth and hospitality. This is something I have rarely experienced in countries untouched by wars.
Nowadays I am now working with the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Geneva. At work, I devote most of my time to thinking about emergency response preparedness for the humanitarian system. I am passionate about the rights of the displaced, asylum seekers and refugees.
In my spare time, I am active on social media and am a budding amateur photographer. I also love reading a lot, especially the New York Times, The Economist and historical non-fiction. I have two beautiful children in Sydney, a boy and a girl. I am blessed to be in a loving relationship.
In January 2015 I was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML), which thankfully isn’t cancer (sic). After treatment failure in July 2015, I switched to a second-generation treatment, dasatinib; so far, so good. Side effects “suck” though. I still have a pulse, which is a good thing. If I didn’t it would freak people out, not just me. When I am very calm, or anxious, I can feel it pulsating away beneath my skin. For the next few years my CML will keep me away from working in conflicts or disasters, but I do hope to return to the field, wherever that is, at some point in time.