Episode Forty-Nine

Wellbeing, Aid, Impact and Activism with Mary Ann Clements

"Ultimately what we should be looking for, I think, is not that our organizations are still here in 100 years' time, but that the world is in a different place where our organizations actually aren't necessary."


Mary Ann Clements (formerly Mary Ann Mhina) has devoted her life to making an impact. Wellbeing and the ways we care for ourselves and one another is her work and her passion. In this episode, Mary Ann joins Judithe to discuss the ways that aid organizations can apply self-care and wellness while redefining themselves and their roles in a changing world. Our work in humanitarian aid and human rights activism at large is as much about self-care as it is about showing up and doing the work.

The recent Oxfam scandal in Haiti offers aid organizations an opportunity to start reimagining themselves and embracing new approaches, not only to their internal operations, but especially in their interactions with the communities in which they work. 

"Policies and procedures actually don't solve these power game problems."

There are power dynamics in organizations that impact how problems are addressed. Often, these power dynamics go against the very principles and mission of the organizations and end up dehumanizing the people and communities that they are intending to serve. The power dynamics in humanitarian operations in Haiti is a case in point. From the UN cholera outbreak, to the Red Cross's misapplication of resources following the 2010 earthquake, to the recent Oxfam #MeToo revaluations of staff sexual misconduct, the humanitarian and international development sector is failing to apply its own knowledge and expertise of service with respect and dignity to communities and populations. Yet, to live the values and principles of humanitarian aid is the opportunity for all actors, without exception.

"We have to look at ourselves in order to transform how we look at other people [and how we might transform the world]."

As Mary Ann affirms in this conversation with Judithe, self-care, wellbeing, and mindfulness must be integrated as part of the humanitarian project. It is sufficient to assume because we work with these noble mission, we are therefore noble. But the practice and application of the mission must be active and reflected in the lived experience and interactions of each of us working in the community.

Judithe and Mary Ann address the inherent problems within aid organizations, including those imbalanced power dynamics and the steps that organizations can take to improve their standing within communities and in the public eye. 

Learn more about Mary Ann and her organization at www.jijaze.com and follow Marry Ann on Twitter at @maryannmhina.