An embrace

Posted on: January 1, 2017 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Local aid and development workers in the US

Embracing a development worker
On this New Years Day I got up early before the family. After making my coffee I immediately settled into reading a book recommended by my wife and 12 year old daughter, a book that came as a Christmas present just a week ago.

fullsizerenderMy wife is an amazing mother and constantly challenges our children to read and explore the world, and the choice of Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water was made easy because it had been both on the New York Times best seller list and honored by the Newberry Award committee.

The book tells two stories that connect for the reader as they read the final pages. One story is of a young girl -just as countless other young girls around the world- who grew up taking long walks to fetch water, the other about a “Lost Boy” who comes of age in refugee camps and ultimately gets official refugee status, comes to the United States, and starts a new life in upstate New York.

The story comes full circle when the young boy -now an accomplished and educated young man- starts his own ngo Water for South Sudan and is responsible for bringing a bore-hole well to the village of the young girl.

Yeah, I know the opinion many aid workers have about MONGO’s (MyOwnNGO) and general ‘do-goodery’, but the story of Salva Dut, an aid and development worker by my measure, seems positive and appropriate as we begin a new year.  I say this despite a chronically deteriorating situation in South Sudan, and one does wonder how many of his wells will survive.  Not unlike many development efforts, Dut’s work has a Sisphian quality, indeed.

In my last post I described a discussion with the North Carolina State Refugee Coordinator.inside  One story she told was of four young single men from Sudan who had been placed together here in North Carolina.  Now, having just read A Long Walk for Water, I know a bit more clearly the back story likely behind their lives.  I will have to follow up with the NC State Refugee Coordinator Marlene Myers and see if she can recall if these young men were also part of the “lost boys” chapter in refugee history.

A net positive?
We all strive to move the needle incrementally in a positive direction. Salva Dut is doing it in his way, and with this post, in this moment at the beginning of a new year, I chose to let myself be inspired by his strength and feel good about my twelve year old learning about worlds far removed -but at the same time intersecting- from her’s.

An embrace.

Tom Arcaro

Tom Arcaro is a professor of sociology at Elon University. He has been researching and studying the humanitarian aid and development ecosystem for nearly two decades and in 2016 published 'Aid Worker Voices'. He recently published his second and third books related to the humanitarians sector with 'Confronting Toxic Othering' published in 2021 and 'Dispatches from the Margins of the Humanitarian Sector' in 2022. A revised second edition of 'Confronting Toxic Othering' is now available from Kendall Hunt Publishers

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