Those who are close to me know that I buy books from anywhere and everywhere. From the streets to the bookshops to supermarkets to my employer’s library…I will not rest until I can get a book that I really, really want to read. Those who are close to me have also been forced to bear with my ranting and raving about Dr. Samantha Nutt’s book, Damned Nations: Greed, Guns, Armies and Aid. While paying for it at a local supermarket, the cashier asked “Madam, kwa nini kitabu hiki ni expensive hivyo? (Madam, why is this book so expensive?) The book costs KES 1,795 (more or less around $20). I simply replied with a smile, “Knowledge” trying to reassure myself that I had not wasted my hard earned money…
Fast forward to two months later and I am currently reading the book for a second time. Dr. Nutt’s account of her experiences in war-torn places in Africa and the Middle East are quite vivid, brutally honest and some are quite heart wrenching. Samantha has also been able to nicely combine hard, cold facts with her emotional experiences without losing her core message. My views and opinions of working in the NGO world have been completely changed… I am sure that I am not the only one who had thought it’s just about driving around in a car with a red number plate, traveling to exotic countries and enjoying hefty allowances.
I guess that not much emphasis is put on the psychological trauma that aid workers go though while in the field. This could be through the loss of their colleagues in the great work or their newly-found friends in the war zones or just missing the things that we take for granted like a hot shower. Not much emphasis is put on the negative effects of touch and go charity work better known as voluntourism. Not much emphasis is put on accountability of donor funds. I agree with her when she says “Aid is an imperfect solution to an imperfect world” more so as I am yet to finish reading Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid which seems to be a complete anti-thesis.
I would highly recommend this book to read to anyone is currently working or has dreams of working in the world of development. To all volunteers out there, I recommend chapter 4: Paved with Good intentions
Photo courtesy of University of Central Florida website. Thanks!