Lloyd Donaldson (1963-2010) – Man with a Moustache on a Mission

Lloyd Donaldson, a journalist turned humanitarian, had a big and amazing moustache, and a big and amazing heart. I knew him for less than a year, but I cried my eyes out when I found out four weeks ago that he had died very unexpectedly, only 46 years old.

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On my first day in the office in London last September, my supervisor introduced me to Lloyd and I was given the desk right beside his. I used to tell people how lucky I was to be given that desk, as Lloyd became a driving force in my internship experience and soon became a friend and my favourite Merlin staff member for his crazy work ethic, passion for life, determination to get things done, way of caring about people around him, and his way of caring about people in need of humanitarian aid in the distant countries whose maps plastered the columns around his desk.

In our very first conversation back in September 2009, when my logistics colleagues weren’t paying attention, Lloyd leaned over and told me that any time I had a question that I felt too stupid to ask to the logs, I should ask him and he would do his best to answer (which he did, many times). He also showed me the top drawer of his filing cabinet, where he kept his dark chocolate supply, and told me not to ask but just to take some whenever I wanted – Lloyd was very generous.

I spent many hours working with Lloyd on the Indonesia and Haiti emergency responses. He put a lot of faith in my abilities, gave me a lot of responsibility, and was always there to provide constructive criticism and lots of feel-good positive feedback. He taught me a huge amount during the time I was at head office. The example he set for everyone who worked with him was really amazing.

Lloyd hard at work in the middle of a very cold January night in Gatwick Airport Servisair Cargo Shed H, preparing to send seven tonnes of supplies including giant ROFI tents to be used as a life-saving surgical operating centre in Port-au-Prince, Haiti:

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For his big moustache and his absolutely enormous heart, a lot of people will miss Lloyd for a long time, and I doubt any of us will ever stop appreciating what he did for each of us as individuals.

“Why do you do it?” he asked. I replied immediately, “Because we can.”
     – James Orbinski (former Intl President of MSF), An Imperfect Offering

I don’t know if Lloyd ever read that book, but he showed that same attitude, because I can (apparently, as a boy, Lloyd and his best friend used to bring tools to school and disassemble anything they could, then take the stuff home, “because they could,” so I guess he had that in him all along). When you boil down all the big words and philosophising on the question of why people become humanitarian and development workers, I reckon that’s about the most logical and human explanation anyone can come up with. He did it because he could.

I miss him a lot.

YouTube video: Lloyd Donaldson’s Life-Loving, by his friend and former business partner Gregory Kunis.

8 Comments

  1. Rosemary July 26, 2010 at 10:34 #

    Chris, what a beautiful, touching and inspiring tribute to your friend and colleague, Lloyd Donaldson. Brought tears to my eyes.

  2. Yevgenia July 26, 2010 at 15:17 #

    Thanks very much for posting this. I have been his employee in St. Petersburg, Russia, for many amasing years, and it is enlightening to see how his human qualities have been transferred without any change in another occupation and other colleagues. People in the St Petersburg Press loved him for exactly the qualities that you mentioned. I also miss him dearly, and can’t believe he is no more. His ashes have been scattered on the Piha beach in NZ last Monday, you can see this place on youtube if you want.
    Yevgenia Munro

  3. The PhotoDiarist July 30, 2010 at 02:57 #

    You’re welcome Yevgenia, thanks for the comment and for the name of the beach. Next time I’m in NZ I’ll try and take a drive out there to see it.

  4. Andy Rolnick February 10, 2011 at 12:57 #

    After I did a semester with CIEE in St. Peter, I went back to St. Peter to work. I met Lloyd back in 92-93 when I worked over there. I am so sorry to hear about his death!! I also lived in Moscow from 97-01 – it was a great time but I never saw Lloyd after 93. This is so heartbreaking to hear about his death. I remember some of his advice that I shoud have taken. He told me to do a Master’s in journalism but I did a Master’s in Applied Linguistics instead. I think I should have taken his advice

  5. Judy Siddins May 30, 2011 at 00:11 #

    I am devastated to discover today the reason my last few attempts to contact Lloyd have failed. I have only found out about his death today, and am shattered. Lloyd was a wonderful friend for many years, from when he was in Perth (Australia) in the 1980’s through his various travels and his time in Russia, and we stayed in touch as he moved into humanitarian work. I had several wonderful trips to St Petersburg and travelling with Lloyd around various parts of Russia in the 1990’s – something I would never have done on my own, and I treasure his emails about his time in Pakistan and London and so many other places, making a difference to so many people. So many memories, so much learned on those travels, so many great photos and emails and stories to keep those memories alive. Lloyd had a way of moving me out of my comfort zone, eventually helping to inspire my own move out of the corporate sector and into the not-for-profit world, trying to also make a difference in the world in my own way. Lloyd and I lost touch through my various moves about 2 or 3 years ago, and my attempts to re-establish contact with him late last year and early this year failed – now I know why. Lloyd, I will miss you greatly. You were amazing! Yevgenia, I lost touch with you too, so if you read this and want to get in contact again please let me know. You can find me at Australian Wildlife Conservancy here in Perth, Australia.

  6. Don Goulter July 8, 2011 at 02:34 #

    To Lloyds friends,and Lloyd who once was a friend to me………Lloyd you were kind of brave
    you were kind of fun
    you are kind of missed
    you were mainly just so very kind
    Gods blessings to where you are at now………and thankyou for the help and friendship you gave when I knew you in St Petersburg.
    Regards Don in New Zealand……..I have learnt today of yr death……..today being 13 months later……I am very saddened at this news…….does any one know his family in Christchurch.

  7. Linda Donaldson July 11, 2011 at 13:24 #

    Hi it’s Linda Donaldson, Lloyd’s sister in NZ. Thanks for your thoughts Don, which are just as relevant now as a year ago.

  8. Ruth May 21, 2014 at 22:04 #

    I too was trying to contact Lloyd having lost contact many years ago and was told by a friend that she had seen his obituary in a New Zealand newspaper. I knew Lloyd in Christchurch when we both went to school together. We would spend long hours after school discussing everything – I never forgot him. My thoughts go out to his family in New Zealand – although I am sure they wouldn’t remember me any longer, I remember them. Ruth (nee Carter).

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