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* “Helping people help themselves.”

February 24, 2016

Before we returned to the US in 1995 I spent the first 20 years of my working life focused on international development. This due to what I felt was a Calling to invest my life in doing this which began as I came to realize how unjust and inequitable the world was during my high school years in Madagascar (see ?).

Having newly arrived in Madagascar after 6 1/2 long years of engineering school, shallow welltasked initially with working on a shallow well program, but already having had this job changed to something much more mysterious, I was asked by several German donors about the shallow well program they were funding, which at that point in time, was one of their most expensive programs of this kind in the world, even though most of the wells seemed to be going in at a location where the soil was sandy and the groundwater wasn’t so very far below the surface. Having heard a fair amount about this project by this point in time, how resources supplied for one use were also being used for several other things, I helping-people-help-themselvesrather snidely (in retrospect) asked them if they were there to “help people help themselves?””Oh, yes,” they replied, “that’s it exactly!” To which I responded that I thought they were very much  in fact achieving their goals, with the only not so small caveat that some people were helping themselves much more than others.

Needless to say, it was quite a few years before any German donors again asked me any questions.


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