Sunday, June 05, 2011

Reading Little Princes

I’m in the middle of a book called Little Princes, the story of a young American’s mission to save the lives of trafficked children in Nepal. V gave it to me as the April gift. I think he figured that my childhood in Nepal and experience with international NGOs would make this an interesting read.

It certainly has been, but I doubt in the ways that the author intended. Conor Grennan, the author and the founder of an NGO to help children in Nepal, embodies for me so much of what I find frustrating, confounding, challenging, admirable and appalling in people who position themselves as saviours to those less fortunate.

This guy had a vision and practically set about single-handedly making that vision reality. Commendable, sure. He rescued children. He defied odds. And, as he so often points out in his book, he “sacrificed” his comforts at home to improve the lives of others. It may also be indubitable that he made a very real difference in the lives of several children. And to top it off, he got a book deal out of it.

But from someone who has lived in so-called third-world countries, in my humble opinion, often the last thing that is needed is one more silo NGO. They are called silos because each NGO wants to stand alone on its mission to save the world, the children, the poor... These silos compete with each other for precious donor dollars and funding. They diligently, determinedly, strike out alone in the name of their ideals and lofty goals. And too often the ideals and goals were determined on the other side of the world from where they are being imposed.

I do believe that it takes people with vision and courage to make changes in the world. We need more people who are willing to sacrifice some personal comfort for a greater good. But at the same time, what I don’t think we need more of is people who want to charge off on their own course without first knowing the terrain.

I haven’t finished the book, so forgive me if I’m being too quick to judge. Just sometimes my blood starts boiling...

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