August 23, 2009

I walked to Avery Park this morning. I sat on my favorite bench in the rose garden in a patch of sunshine and pulled out Paul Theroux‘s “Dark Star Safari.” I’m 70 pages from the end; yet, I’m a restless soul, so I jumped to the last two pages, to the postscript, dated January 2004.

I mentioned this book and Theroux’s thoughts on foreign aid in my last post. He writes about aid again in the postscript. Here’s an excerpt from page 484, the penultimate page of a fabulous, funny, thoughtful and thought-provoking work.

This excerpt mentions the problems in Zambia and quotes Rodger Chongwe, Zambia’s former minister of justice and legal affairs, and Rolf Shelton, a mechanic, born in Zambia.

“This brought us to the subject of aid. Chongwe said, ‘The donors are making us lazy. The Japanese volunteers are doing what the city council used to do–mending potholes. It is better for us to have potholes. We would be forced to do something about them. We’d have to think for ourselves.’

Another former member of parliament I met was Rolf Shelton. …He said, I get these aid guys at my workshop. I fix their vehicles. yesterday it was the World Vision Land Rover. They’re entrenched. Charity is a business. They don’t even think about leaving. They’ve created imbalances in food, artificial shortages, sudden surpluses from abroad that undercut the local farmers. They make more problems than they solve.'”

As Isis Initiative, Inc. gets ready to award its first scholarship to a young woman, I keep these observations about foreign donors and the effects of their aid in mind.

Leah said that Marethel is working as a maid now. In the fall, she’ll begin her college studies to become a teacher. I hope this solves problems not creates them. I hope this uplifts her and helps her serve her community and her family.

We’re doing our best, eyes and hearts open.


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