Monday, May 14, 2012

Timothy T. Schwartz, Ph.D. has added his voice to the growing chorus of those who are delineating the numerous ways in which NGOs and some mission-based organizations have failed Haiti. The subtitle of his book is apt: "A true account of Christian missions, orphanages, food aid, fraud and drug trafficking."

Before reading this book, I felt that I had a fairly sophisticated understanding of what makes Haiti tick - or, more precisely - what keeps it from ticking. I learned a great deal from Schwartz's research and anecdotes. He writes about Haiti from the vantage point of having lived as a "participant observer" in a remote Haitian village. From that base of operations, he conducted research on behalf of a number of NGOs. His conclusions are both shocking and believable. He did his research and offered his conclusions before the devastating earthquake, but the disaster has only exacerbated the problems that this book identifies.

The author identifies himself as a cynic, and his political philosophy and ideologies clearly impact the way in which he views Haiti and those organization that purport to be helping the Haitian people. Having observed first hand many of the dynamics and phenomena that the author describes, I conclude that his observations and conclusions need to be taken seriously. They should force well-meaning organizations - faith-based or secular - to examine their methodologies in attempting to get help into the hands of the poorest of the poor. I serve on the boards of several organizations that focus on helping Haiti to stand on its own and to create sustainable economic foundations. I have already offered Schwartz's work as a mirror against which we will examine ourselves and our effectiveness.

My only reason for giving four stars rather than five is the sloppiness of the editing. I read the second edition, and found on almost every page typographic and grammatical errors. If the author wants to be truly taken seriously in his diagnosis of Haiti, the next edition will need to be edited more effectively.


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