This is the tale of a woman who bravely opens doors and thus has astounding adventures and enlightenments. All in the context of what can only be called an adventure story and an extraordinary life. – Thomas Keneally
Accidental Aid Worker is an epic memoir, which touches many sensitive aspects of your life, with which I can identify. This unique journey is indeed rich with memorable characters, events sensitive reflections. – Professor the Honourable Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO
“A brave and honest book”
In 2004 the Boxing Day tsunami struck Sri Lanka, a country to which Sue Liu had travelled only a few months earlier. Leaving 35,000 dead and 500,000 displaced, Sue felt compelled to DO something and she did – rallying her friends to chip in, donate and give whatever they can. Sue and her friends’ generosity fill a container bound for Sri Lanka, where she travels to escort the supplies through the chaotic port of Colombo and then to Trincomalee in the far north. What she finds is far removed from her expectations of good will and the experience plunges her into the challenges that all of us face in the development landscape. Sue finds herself an ‘accidental aid worker’.
This poignant travel memoir, Accidental Aid Worker details the adventures, challenges, doubts, and tribulations Sue experiences as she finds herself immersed into the humanitarian and development world. The book extends far beyond the aftermath of the tsunami though. Through her experience in Sri Lanka, Sue finds she has a passion and skill for community work. Sue is also a woman of the world, with skills in demand by corporations. The pressures of humanitarian and corporate work, including the physical and mental stresses thrown up when doubts surface about the worth of one’s work and life, are a compelling theme of Accidental Aid Worker. It is a brave and honest book.
Sue passionately, and always honestly, leads us on a path through the cultural challenges and the rewards that the community development sector can bring – and many humorous and heartfelt tales involving nuns, a tuktuk accident, refugees and orphaned children and so much more. For those of us working in development, Sue’s passion to support community reflects our own paths in many ways. Her story reminded us of the joy we have felt at the connections and contributions we have made and why we are so passionate about development at the grass roots level. Accidental Aid Worker provides real-life lessons of operating in a cross cultural context.
Accidental Aid Worker highlights the bigger question facing us all, no matter where we are working on the continuum between aid and development: how to get ‘right’ that fine balance between aid and development, including how these two facets can complement each other and move towards sustainable community development at the grassroots level. This is a fundamental principal and critical challenge for all of us working in development. By putting her own achievements, mistakes and the personal impact of her efforts in writing, Sue holds up a mirror to the sector – allowing readers to reflect on our own struggles. Sue is one of us. We appreciate her honesty and energy because it keeps us focused on what is important in development work: passion and impact. – Review by Kiran and Robyn Hutchinson, SDC members and community development practitioners.
The conversation we need to have – about mental health
It’s truly an amazing journey in terms of geography and the projects you threw yourself into but, for me, the journey that really resonated was your mental health story. As someone who has had my own battles with anxiety, I am always so grateful when someone bravely shares their experience and how they have found a way of perhaps not curing themselves, but managing their condition. I think you are so brave to have detailed that part of your life, and I hope that your story helps to destroy the stigma around mental health issues, and that someday soon it won’t be such a brave act to reveal that part of ourselves; that it will be with the same ease that people talk about other health issues like food allergies or diabetes.
The more I talk to people about mental health, the more I realise we all have some sort of struggle going on. I often think of Ferris Bueller’s immortal words: “Sooner or later, everyone goes to the zoo!”. I think we all need to keep talking.Thanks Sue for sharing your story. – Annette
Just finished reading your book Accidental Aid Worker. Thank you for sharing your journey – not just a how-to on becoming involved in community work – but a very raw, personal & honest account of your emotional, spiritual, physical & mental journey of life. Funny, tragic & inspirational all rolled into one, I admire your vulnerability, down-to-earth attitude and your courage to face both mountains and valleys, and to traverse them both. What a pleasure to get to know you further through reading your memoirs and of course, to have you on our team at our C3 Cares Community Lunch. You are greatly appreciated & I’m looking forward to Book No. 2! – Monica Olander
I just finished your book about an hour ago, it was one of those books where I had only a few pages to go but I did not want to keep reading as I didn’t want the journey to end. Thank you for this amazing journey and telling your story. I am so glad I stumbled upon this book in the library last week, it could not have come at a more perfect time.
I am 19 years old and have just returned from living in Tanzania for 10 months volunteering. I have just thrown myself into fundraising and saving my ass off to be back over there at the start of next year. The book really resonated with me and a lot of the thought processes you were experiencing and questions you were asking yourself are exactly where I am at currently. It is a difficult thing to explain to others, so it was comforting picking up this book and hearing similar thoughts from someone else and follow their journey through all of that. It is hard to find your people and people who do “get it” and to see some of my thoughts on a page written by someone else was comforting, and I knew straight away that you did. I feel and am really looking for that connectedness that I had, and that feeling of purpose.
I have those questions going through my mind everyday. Your book helped put me more at ease and not worry too much. Im now going to try and focus on one day at a time and not overthink what lies ahead for my future too much! It feels like I am writing to a friend, as i felt part of that journey whilst reading your book! So THANK YOU again for telling your story and i hope there are many more to come. – JS.
I just finish Accidental Aid Worker. Much enjoyed, thanks for the journey. Renewed faith and hope for human decency in a cold world. – Dennis
I’m on the edge of my $%^&* seat reading this book of yours. You are my new hero Sue. What a Wonder Woman you are! – Greg
What an amazing, honest, heartfelt, humorous and courageous book Sue. I am so proud of you for what you have achieved, endured, and overcome, both in your life in general, as well as in the writing and publishing of this part of it. You are truly an inspiration, as are the eclectic bunch of fellow “givers” that you have come across and formed relationships with over time. You all, both individually as well as together, help to reaffirm my idealistic faith that, for all of the greed, hatred, corruption and plain nastiness that we see in the world, there is also plenty of altruism, love, kindness, and simple goodness. – Lyn
I just wanted to say, your book was fantastic. I literally couldn’t put it down. I am not a reader by any stretch of the imagination, but this was indeed a great read and you tell your tale well. All those travels. What a life! Brave, adventurous , challenging, selfless and giving. I am in awe. At times it got to me so much that I found myself crying on trains. Can’t wait for the next instalment about your travels. Go Sue! – Maria
You are one strong, determined, generous woman. I have nothing but admiration for you and what you have achieved in your life. I’m thrilled with the success of your book and the impact that it is having. Elizabeth
I am fortunate to have met Sue Liu in the caring, giving and nurturing environment of Our Big Kitchen in Bondi. At the time, Sue struck me as a strong and purposeful woman going about her business with grace and dignity. I have experienced some tough times with the recent loss of my husband and Sue, through her actions and clear purpose, has helped me on my path towards healing. Sue’s book is a breathtakingly honest, humourous, sad at times, thought provoking account of her many adventures in the world of volunteering and aid work both here and overseas whilst successfully embarking on her solo business career in Sydney. Sue’s path has not been an easy road with challenges at most turns. Her book is easy to read and I will be reading it a few more times over the festive season. Kate
I’m sure you know this already, but your story is worthy of sharing with the whole world. You’ve had so many amazing life experiences. Thank you for sharing your journey and your vulnerabilities and for being so open and honest about the journey you have put down on paper. You can now forge on through the 2nd half of your life. Looking forward to the next instalment. Mandy
Firstly, congratulations. The daunting task of writing such a personal account must have been huge for you, and to self publish would have added extra pressure. But you did it, and it’s a great read. You should be proud. It seems that for both of us, apart from being addicted to travel, life is filled with the most amazing highs and spirit crushing lows. Needless to say, I related to your book in a way I haven’t ever done with any other book or its author. Lynda
I finished your book and loved every minute of it! Having spent some time in Sri Lanka years ago, there were a few nostalgic moments!. I truly hope it sells like hot-cakes, any seasoned traveller would really resonate with it. Louise
This is a beautifully written book and very intimate to the Author’s thoughts, feelings and experiences. It feels like you are in Sue’s suitcase watching things unfold… holding your breath in parts, crying in others, then laughing out loud. Once I started reading, I could not put it down.
Warning: You will likely have travel lust after reading it, accompanied with a renewed sense of adventure and what is possible by just jumping in. – Marie
I’ve just finished your book! What a beguiling, beautifully written, heartfelt journey. A true treasure, you should be proud. Fran
I just finished reading your beautifully written book Sue and I loved being carried to lands faraway and learning about your quest to find meaning in this difficult road we all travel called Life. Your courage, persistance, tenacity and heart towards people facing incredibly dire circumstances and your visiion to see them helped in a small way by all of us, gives me hope. I love your outreach for community and I know this will help others understand it’s importance to all of our well being as well. Your hard work and dedication makes me feel lazy and has inspired me to do a bit more in regards to my book. – Liz Moldovan, The Prodigal Daughter
I’ve been reading Accidental Aid Worker by Sue Liu, a client of mine that I knew had a beautiful heart. So far the book, which Ive been reading for the good part of the afternoon, just proves how one person can slowly change the world through kindness love and giving inspiration. Not everyone can do what you have done. Can not wait to read more. l have always been a fan of bios, bless you Sue. Many happy memories to come. – Adriana If I have been late or have not picked up my phone over the last week, blame this book as I have not been able to put it down. Sue, thank you for having the courage to share your amazing and inspiring story. I have just finished reading this beautifully written book and have loved every chapter. Some parts are hilariously funny, other parts are gut wrenching and moving. Your book is full of raw honesty, adventure and lifes ups and downs. Thank you for sharing the journey. – Kimi
A very powerful and emotional journey was imparted by reading Sue’s memoirs. From her growing years to how she became involved with Voluntary Aid Work in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami and during the civil war conflict, and then spreading her generosity to help orphaned children in Cambodia. I felt very connected with the author through the sharing of the highs and lows of her life experiences during those ten years.
There were occasions where emotions flared inside me, so real, that I felt I was travelling on the same journey with Sue. The book reminded me, of how too often we give so much of ourselves to others, that we forget to look after ourselves. It was also a reminder that as we grow older we realise that events of our childhood and teenage years, make and can cloud who we become – there comes a time in our life when we need to let go of the childhood and teenage baggage and to move on with our life and think of ourselves and enjoy the present.
This is Sue’s first book and I hope it won’t be the last – I wish Sue all the very best, such a dedicated, selfless, beautiful person, who has given so much to so many. – Wendy
Please also see reviews and comments for Accidental Aid Worker on Goodreads!