Good Reading : November 2016
GOODREADINGMAGAZINE.COM.AU GOOD READING NOVEMBER 2016 52 And I began to discover them. The challenges were many and var ied: in Papua New Guinea, it’s always complex. In child sponsorship our primary approach is to select a sample of the children and work with communities to change things for these and all the other children – to develop the whole community. It’s very effective.Yet back in those days we still had some individualising of sponsored children through the provision of handout supports, such as school fees. This is inherently flawed and was a particularly bad fit for Pacific cultures, which are strongly collective. We also encountered significant logistic problems all over the country. Papua New Guinea is a beautifully rugged and wild place. Many communities have no roads. We could only reach them by motor ised log canoes or hours and hours of hiking. But the isolation could be even more intense. Some of our local volunteers had to monitor children scattered across several mountains in sparsely populated areas where families lived in remote hamlets; communications often broke down; the children kept disappearing due to population mobility, or even changed names due to passage of life ... The list goes on. I listened to all kinds of people in communities and documented everything, and it began a process. Pull it apart, find what’s wrong, rethink it. How could we make child sponsorship operate effectively in these difficult contexts? How could it better fit within traditional local cultures and values? How could we eradicate the welfare overtones of handouts and benefactors and make each child in a community feel equally valued? My time here was the beginning of a personal journey, a kind of quest. A few agencies had given up on sponsorship, but the reasoning seemed to me like the crocodile syllogism. Assumption: Sponsorship is inherently flawed. Observation: We saw problems. Conclusion: therefore sponsorship is inherently flawed. Well, fix it, dear Henry. Almost anything we do in communities can cause problems if we don’t adapt what we’re doing. Over the next nine years, in addition to my other responsibilities, I analysed the way child sponsorship operated within community contexts across five continents. I documented about 24 different things that can go wrong – and began to find ways to rethink it. It led to piloting experimental approaches and became a simple set of ideas to completely transform the way child sponsorship worked. The ideas were first applied in Armenia and Albania. And they worked brilliantly. Beyond expectations. But that was nine years away. On a journey wrapped in and around much of the travel in this book. Beyond the Vapour Trail: An aid worker’s story by Brett Pierce is published by Transit Lounge, rrp $29.99. BOOK BITE 2 My culture, without blinking, was bulldozing everything flat to cover the earth in asphalt and concrete, leaving crocodiles, other creatures and remnants of forests in little enclosures for posterity.
December 2016 - January 2017