Tag Archives: Cool people

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.


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:


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.

Really Cool People

I’ve met some really interesting people in my short life, and a few of them were, or have become, famous. I just found a newspaper clipping in my house that my parents cut out from April 10th. It was an obituary for a man named Rudolf ‘Rudi’ Vrba. He was the husband of Robin Vrba, a well known and very nice realtor in Vancouver who works in my mom’s Re/Max office. I still remember meeting Rudi at a Re/Max function down at the yacht club by Jericho Beach about 5 years ago. He told me about Gdansk, a town on the Baltic sea and although I don’t remember the fine details anymore, I do remember that it was very interesting and since then I’ve always wanted to go there.

It turns out that Dr Vrba is a rather famous man. Not only was he a distinguished medical researcher and professor at UBC, but he was one of the two men who authored the very famous Auschwitz Protocols, sometimes called the Vrba-Wetzler report, after they escaped from Auschwitz in 1944. Vrba and Wetzler were the first two of only five Jews who ever escaped the death camp. The report was the first detailed information about the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau and is considered one of the most important documents of the 20th century. You can read more about Dr Vrba, his amazing escape and later life at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolf_Vrba or google his name.

Another, perhaps slightly less famous, person I know has recently started a petition which I think should be signed by anyone with a conscience. I spent a week in Toronto in 2002 with Nazanin Afshin-Jam and a bunch of other people, including my sister and Chris Kramer among others. Kramer may be familiar to some as the star of the TV series “The Collector.” See http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0380869/ for more on that.

Anyways, Nazanin became Miss Canada in 2003 and placed 2nd in the Miss World competition. She did the same two majors as me at UBC and even went to Herstmonceux Castle in her first year, like I did several years after her. Right now she has started a worldwide petition to save a girl in Iran, also named Nazanin, from being hanged for killing a man in self-defence. I was the 22,472nd person to sign so far. I encourage you to check out the petition info at http://www.petitiononline.com/Nazanin/ and sign it (and tell your friends/post it on your site).

If you’ve seen the music video for Bif Naked‘s awesome song “Tango Shoes” you’ve seen Nazanin – she’s the girl in the diner in the snowglobe. If you want to know more about the Canadian Nazanin, you can check out her site and preview her upcoming album from Bodog Music at http://www.nazanin.ca/ or her MySpace site at http://www.myspace.com/nazaninmusic