Saturday, July 24

"The humanitarian's dilemma"

I cannot begin to anticipate my response had I found this series by Emily Meehan before I left for Nakuru.  In reading her relief to be done with her ten months in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, not because of her work as a press officer where she connected foreign journalists with survivors of gang rape and former child soldiers but because she wasn't sure whether she could trust a teenage boy she had formed a relationship with, I might have thought then something along the lines of, "Well, they can't all be winners.  I should be ready for some disappointment."  Now, all I can think is, "That's all?  One possibly untrustworthy kid broke your heart?  How about knowing you can't trust police, teachers, lawyers, chiefs, the power company or the Children's Department unless you have fifty dollars spare in your back pocket?  Wimp."

That's not to suggest I don't sympathize with Meehan.  Some positioning in a competition to be more miserable is present above, sure, but not a lack of understanding.  We both wanted to better understand a situation and region which has been subject to some real misery and limited journalistic attention.  We wanted to be there, learn for ourselves and play some part in making it a little less miserable.

What we learned was that the problems facing that part of the world are much more than merely sharing the necessary resources among those most in need and providing capital for entrepreneurs.  They are entire attitudes and cultures.  It is a hard lesson to learn, especially alongside the realization of one's powerlessness to impact these.  Meehan spent months with Aimé trying to expand his worldview along with paying for his high school fees and a bicycle, and his final meeting with her was still to request more money.  Granted, the duration of their relationship was only a few months, but if their personal contact couldn't make such a change in his behavior, what would?

I never advocate reading comments as the two seconds of thought behind them is always clear and the level of cruelty is only possible in an anonymous forum, but those here are worth skimming.  There is some terrible invective present, but Meehan has been active responding to questions and misinterpretations of her meaning.

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