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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, in Becoming Mzungu, Stella Beake shares the tale of Emma’s African metamorphosis when she goes to work for a humanitarian aid organisation in Burundi.

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Becoming Mzungu

In Becoming Mzungu, Stella Beake drew from her own experiences of working for an humanitarian organisation in Africa as she takes her intrepid protagonist Emma from London’s treadmill existence, to living a life full of previously unimaginable experiences. It is Emma’s relatability, fears and subsequent joy when she finds her ‘African’ feet that makes Becoming Mzungu such an intoxicating read.

Becoming Mzungu by Stella Beake on The Table Read Magazine
Becoming Mzungu by Stella Beake

Having made the biggest decision of her life, to leave her job, her flat, and her friends in London, Emma has decided to move to Africa to work for a humanitarian aid organisation. As the day of departure gets closer and closer, Emma finds that fear and excitement overwhelm her in equal measures.

Emma finds that the following six months are completely different from anything she imagined, but give her so much more than she had ever dreamed. The people, the experiences, and learning: the friendships, the rollercoaster of emotions, and the personal growth gave her something she had never considered before. A whole new career and a whole new life.Throughout her first six months in Burundi, Emma makes friends, and learns a lot from those around her. The work and the life brings her joy, happiness, fear, loneliness, sorrow, heartache, and laughter, in equal measures.

First travels to Bujumbura, the capital city of Burundi where she meets some of the other staff, both national and international, who she will be working with over the next few months and gets to know a little bit about how international humanitarian work operates. It seems both complex, and mundane at the same time. She then travels onto Madzivazivigo, a remote area in Burundi where she will be the administrator on a project doing a range of activities.

Along the journey Emma deals with disappointments in how the international humanitarian system works; the stresses and tensions of living and working so closely with people she has only just met; arguments and misunderstandings; and a medical emergency. All the while this is set against the background of humanitarian response work, both the life-changing and the humdrum. If nothing else, it is certainly an adventure.

Inspiring, eloquent and highlighting that the efforts of humanitarian organisations don’t always deliver the intended effect, Stella Beake’s authentic narrative may just prove a much-needed catalyst to many of its YA readers  – that life is very much what you make it.

Stella Beake

Stella Beake is an ex-humanitarian aid worker, now living back in the UK, enjoying a gentler and less adventurous life after over a decade overseas.

Working in the area of gender and gender-based violence across different continents gave Stella a strong insight into the insidiousness of patriarchy and oppression, and a yearning for a more equal society.

Find more from Stella Beake now:



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