About me


Gemma Houldey, Aid Sector Wellbeing Support ServicesMy name is Gemma Houldey and it is with a sense of commitment and hope that I share the ideas and practices that I truly believe can transform us as change-makers. 

What I offer, in the form of research, workshops and wellbeing practices  is inspired by over 15 years of experience with human rights and humanitarian programmes, particularly in the Middle East and East Africa, and by over 6 years of research and learning focused on staff care in the aid sector.


Whether working on advocacy campaigns in Palestine, or with peace-building groups in northern Uganda - I have seen how unhealthy working practices and lack of self-care affect our ability to respond effectively to the communities we serve as humanitarians and human rights defenders. 

It is my own experiencing my own emotional upheavals, and witnessing it among so many colleagues, that inspired me to study a PhD at the University of Sussex, and now just recently write a book, that tackles the systemic problems that result in stress and burnout in the aid sector.

My book, entitled The Vulnerable Humanitarian: Ending Burnout Culture in the Aid Sector will be published by Routledge in 2021 and I can't wait to share it with you! 

It draws on field research conducted in Nairobi and Turkana districts in Kenya, and on my own experiences of working in the sector and of healing from trauma and burnout. I explore the issues that are most dear to me and so crucial to understanding burnout and wellbeing among aid workers: organisational culture, power dynamics, abuse and racism - and the need for more inclusive, caring and compassionate approaches to ourselves and our work.

You can read a journal article I wrote for Gender and Development, which draws on my doctoral research in Kenya, here. And please do buy the book when it is published in late 2021!

I have also been discussing these issues on different media platforms, including France 24, Voice of America, The Conversation and Open Democracy. You can also listen to some of my reflections on the challenges of aid work and how this affects us on the One Step Forward podcast and on the Embodying Change podcast.

I believe that we must truly embody all the change we want to see in the world. For me that has meant a continuous commitment to wellbeing practices that support my own health needs, and which can support aid workers and activists not only in healing and relaxation, but also in building awareness and compassion; so that we may continue on a positive path of human connection and understanding. You can read more about my approach to wellbeing here

Let's connect

You can read more about my professional skills and background via my LinkedIn page. And you can keep up to date on my learning and engagement around wellbeing and organisational change in the aid sector by signing up to my newsletter below, or contact me directly to find out more about how I can support your organisation.  

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