Read “Mission work isn’t just a Cinderella story” in Presbyterian Today. Ellen Sherby tells her powerful personal story with quotes from Connie and Fran, including a recommendation to read Doing Good.
Faith and Money Network recommends Doing Good. Read the full review here: Faith and Money Network book review
This summer, I was part of a local news segment about life expectancy discrepancies in Boston. I was given the opportunity to speak about Doing Good…Says Who? and was thrilled to see the book made the final cut! To watch the news segment, follow this link (I speak about the book at the 2:50 minute mark): WCVB Chronicle 5 News Segment
We are excited to see Doing Good…Says Who? picking up traction both locally and nationally!
More to come,
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The following is a response to the book from Boston College senior Sean O’Rourke, as part of a course on “Faith, Service, and Solidarity.”
“Doing Good…Says Who?” was a tremendously rewarding book to read this week. The text taught me so much about the context, background and world views that I and anyone else from a privileged position may bring when trying to serve.
I could see myself so easily in the shoes of each character throughout the book; that is, each character from the West. Ellie’s first judgmental impression and outlook were similar to those I have noticed on service trips, Lucy’s energy and enthusiasm were relatable, and the men and women in the group of the third chapter had the same desires to “help” as me!
The challenge of this book, however, is to look at our collective lives in another way. To recognise that we Westerners are not saviours, but equals. Greg Boyle SJ would say that our goal in serving is to be in kinship with one another, and to have compassion – that is to be with those who suffer. This book just puts those ideas in secular terms.
On Arrupe this past winter break, I wondered what we as a collective could bring on the trip with us for the people, and after reading this, I know that my initial checklist was way off… Books, (probably in English – which they couldn’t read), supplies, and food wouldn’t get to the heart of any structural problems that the people face. The best thing to pack would probably be an open mind, heart, and willingness to feel broken and helpless.
Our one week trips to foreign countries aren’t really capable of changing anything, but it’s often hard for us to recognise that as Westerners who receive such a feel-good factor from participating in them.
With regard to being helped, I know from a personal standpoint that as a child I needed my parents to do things for me. And I was very happy for them to do it for a long time, because their insight and expertise generally got me further along the path to what was deemed “success.”
However, nothing has been so liberating as becoming independent from them while at college. I have loved, I will say it again, LOVED doing things for myself since breaking away from a closed-knit family unit back home. The people of this book and elsewhere are no different. They too can be empowered and worked-with to affect positive, lasting change in their communities, as the numerous examples of this book show. It just takes a change in mind-set, and a shifting in one’s standing position to see that they don’t need to be “helped”, in ways that we usually believe.
I think that the whole book can be summed up in the words of Lilla Watson, who was quoted earlier in one of the readings of this course, saying: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
We would do well to heed to such advice as we embark on our journey as ‘BC Eagles’, who typically strive to “Ever Rise to New Heights”. Maybe in our haste movements, huge appetites, and deep desires to set the world aflame, we could first consider what the ground of the earth actually looks like, then encounter and embrace the small embers we find, already lighting.
I highly recommend this book to all the NGOs in Guatemala who bring donors and volunteers from the US. Each and every one of them should read this book BEFORE they come. So many times we hear people say, “well, here’s how we do it,” as if our way in the US is better, without any understanding of the culture or reasons existing in Guatemala for doing things their way. Approaching situations with patience and observation before recommending is essential! The five steps of understanding outlined in this book will make EVERYONE’s experience richer and so much more valuable! I speak as one who has worked with various NGOs in Guatemala for the last 11 years, I’ve seen several come and go because of lack of understanding and a determination to “do it the right way,” which was actually the wrong way!
Author: Judy Sadlier
I have been volunteering in rural villages in Cambodia teaching English. A fellow volunteer was so disturbed by the conditions in the school where we were teaching, that he decided to raise a LOT of money and build a proper school for them. However, before doing this, he didn’t bother to investigate if that is what the villagers wanted or needed. So, the funds were gathered and the one room schoolhouse was built.
When he returned to the village, to check on the progress of the school, he expected a crowd on hand to thank him. But he was surprised to find the school half-built with cow shit covering the floors. He learned that the villagers were so upset by the building that they harassed the construction workers and brought in their cows to poop on the floors as an act of rebellion. They didn’t see the school as an opportunity for their children to be educated. They viewed it as a threat to having their children help them in the fields. In the end, the money was wasted. However, the villagers gained a new storage shed.
Author: Marisa Turner
I am a Board member and co-founder of an NGO in Uganda and have visited there many times. Over and over again the native people have helped me understand how much less I know than I thought I did.
The most amazing of many good stories comes from a large American agency’s partnership with us on a women’s empowerment project. I wondered about their idea to send a shipping container full of multicolored, re-useable cotton sanitary pads. But they were women and had more experience than we did so I stayed mum.
On my next visit the village women greeted me with much excitement showing beautiful quilts they’d made. They wanted me to take them back to America and sell them so they would have the money to pay school fees for their children. As I looked at each one carefully I discovered a label, “Gifts from your friends in Arica.” Suddenly I realized these colorful, beautifully embroidered quilts were made of the multicolored sanitary napkins.
How could one do anything but admire the entrepreneurism of these village women, their drive and their talent! The well-meaning gift was put to even better use than the original intended one. And I was reminded once again of how much I (and we) don’t know and how differently people in another culture may see what we do.
Author: Eden Williams
While volunteering at a Catholic Church in Guatemala, I decided to use my free time to create a sculpture. I wanted to put together found objects that would reflect my understanding of the socio-economic context where I was living. As an artist in the U.S., I was used to collecting from a large variety of discarded items and converting them into artworks. However, the only discarded objects I could find on the streets of San Lucas were broken plastic shoes and squashed juice cans. I began collecting them on my walks to and from the clinic where the priest-in-charge had assigned me to paint stripes on the building.
After weeks of collecting squashed cans and broken shoes, I began to arrange them on a shelf outside my volunteer dorm room. One afternoon another volunteer ran up to me with a single shoe in her hand. “Look what I found for your shoe collection!” “Isn’t it cute!” I didn’t want to seem unappreciative so I accepted the shoe and placed it with the others.
Minutes later a woman approached me out of breath and visibly disturbed. She pointed to the new addition to my collection and pleaded with me for the shoe, which had fallen off of her sleeping child’s foot in the marketplace. When I handed her the shoe, she couldn’t get away fast enough. I could tell she didn’t see me as the selfless volunteer, but as the thief of baby shoes.
Author: Rebecca Cutter