Linda Norgrove: living a life that matters
From a remote part of Britain to remote parts of Afghanistan, Linda Norgrove travelled many miles and affected the lives of many people. She devoted her working life to helping to improve the life of others, especially in Afghanistan.
Linda was kidnapped in Kunar on 26 September 2010 and died in an attempted rescue by US forces on 8 October. She was 36. However, Linda is not defined by the tragic circumstances of her death, but by the life she lived and the choices she made.
Linda chose to live a life that matters. She was a highly qualified and dedicated environmental expert, but it was her rare and precious gift of empathy with all people, no matter their condition, culture or beliefs, that was her driving force.
Linda was regional director for DAI in Jalalabad where she oversaw a USAID project designed to create jobs and strengthen local Afghan leadership and economies in unstable and vulnerable areas.
Linda taught herself to speak Dari, an Afghan version of Persian, to help her establish proper relationships with her Afghan staff and the local communities she visited and worked in. This was clearly a key factor in the success of her work.
“Linda came to my country without arms but with strong hope and a commitment to help our people and our war-torn country. She did very well and Afghans will never forget her support and help. We are grateful people.”
Working with local communities
As the only long-term expatriate on the Jalalabad team, she managed and worked with a team of about 500 Afghan staff as they moved across all the districts of eastern Afghanistan, working with communities to implement local projects that had been chosen by the people.
The project areas covered agriculture, rural enterprises and infrastructure, including: building roads, bridges and markets, installing small-scale hydroelectric systems, improving agriculture and encouraging local businesses to expand and improve the production of a wide range of goods, including textiles, honey, talc and marble.
Training local people was an important part of the programme and Linda was instrumental in ensuring women and disabled people were included.
Her DAI colleague Jonathan Greenham said of her: "She learned how to manage the complexity of numerous activities across four provinces in record time, and her interpersonal skills, warmth, caring competence and candor won over the team of mainly Pushtoon males in record time."
Linda had first worked in Afghanistan for the UN from 2005 to 2008. Initially, she was a project officer for environmental and rural development, but her managerial abilities were soon recognised, and she was engaged in several development schemes including construction of roads and irrigation canals, retraining ex-soldiers, alternative livelihoods for opium poppy growers, and developing climate change policy.
“Linda was a hero of project implementation. She got things done. She wanted to work with remote communities and see some real change in the livelihoods of poor Afghan people. She respected our culture; she was an Afghan lady.”
Linda's love of Afganistan
Still with the UN, in 2008 Linda went to Vientienne, Laos, as environmental specialist in charge of a small team managing all aspects of the UN environmental programme.
However, Linda's love of Afghanistan and its people was shown when, while working in Laos, she spent three weeks of her annual leave trekking with friends to the Wakhan corridor, in the extreme north-east of Afghanistan, and then through the Pamir mountain range. She returned to Afghanistan to work in February 2010.
Linda, and those rare people like her, are trail blazers for all of us who wish for a better world. They are the standard bearers of hope, the people who make change happen so that societies throughout the world can have hope of future peace and self-determination. Linda lived in the day and always looked forward with hope – she would have wanted us to look forward with hope too.
"Linda loved Afghanistan and cared deeply for its people, and she was deeply committed to her development mission – she was an inspiration to many of us."