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.