Thursday, June 25, 2009

"Improbable American"

This is the most inspiring thing I have seen since reading Paul Farmer's Mountains Beyond Mountains about PIH's - Partners in Health - health work in Haiti. (Oh, and since Greg Mortensen and Three Cups of Tea.)

The NYTimes video about a musician, Tom Shays (spelling? sorry) (no college degree, no background in this line of work) who after 9/11 volunteered to do disaster relief work, and ended up in Kashmir after the 2005 earthquake that killed 80,000 people. He decided to stay and started a health clinic that treated 100,000 patients last year.

The video captures his work well and shows how one individual - no matter who he or she is or what his or her background - can impact the lives of others around the world.

He really reminds me exactly of Greg Mortensen, author of Three Cups of Tea, and founder of Central Asia Institute which educates and employs thousands of locals, mostly women, in some of the most remote areas Afghanistan and Pakistan.

He also reminds me of Sarah Chayes.

These are the people that will fix this world and that region.

(If the link above doesn't work, just go here, to the NYTimes video site, and then look for the "Improbable American.")


Anonymous said...

I think it's problematic to say that "these people will fix the world and the region." They will not. It must be organic - and it IS organic. There are people pressing for change, and doing good work, and they come from within the society. I am really resistant to the idea that the whiteys can come in and do anything except inspire other whiteys (and save a few lives, which I don't mean to disparage). I know you know what I mean - AET

McCaffray said...

Yes, I know that. I agree, most of the time, but not all. First I think maybe you you read too far into my post...this wasn't really meant to be an academic philosophical one, I think of this as a story of an individual who was motivated to help others and has been saving lives and motivated other (locals) to do the same, ie. the indigenous doctor he got to work there... Lauding this guy doesn't mean I wouldn't laud a local, also by saying 'these people' save the world - how do you know I wasn't also refering to indigenous people in that?? But to me, this guy is as good as local. I agree that indigenous populations organizing themselves, indigenous initiatives etc., are the answer to their own issues, but people that come in and help like this guy with no other agenda, are just as good in my eyes. I mean on the ground, he's saved thousands of lives, we can sit here and with our high academic minds say, oh people need to do it themselves, but I just in practice don't agree a lot of the time, like this time. Also, I think there's a difference between individuals like him and the likes of Paul Farmer and Greg Mortensen and the likes of say maybe some State Dept or other international organizations. These guys are empowering indigenous pops - hiring them to build, run and manage the clinics and schools. They just take initiative at the start, then let others run it from there, again with no other agenda, maybe inspire others to do the same that don't have the resources. I agree there might be some issues with this. I also don't think that NGOs should take on the role of what locals or state govts should do...but again, this guy is saving lives with no agenda and empowering locals - all that work there are locals, like Motenson's schools. When I look at the video and see what this guy is doing I think it is - his appraoch - is much more beneficial than detrimental...