“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.”—Lilla Watson, aboriginal activist and artist
World-renowned physician and public health pioneer Dr. Paul Farmer has long been devoted to caring and advocating for the world’s poorest people, and challenging wealthy Western countries to address the underlying causes of poverty and disease in the developing world. He and the organization he cofounded, Partners in Health, have built medical centers and health systems first in Haiti and then around the world—in Rwanda, Mexico, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Russia, the United States, and more—that also address patients’ social, nutritional, financial, and long-term care needs.
But as he and his colleagues have learned in assessing their own efforts—and indeed all efforts—to turn goodwill into a robust and enduring response to the profound problems of structural poverty, success requires more than good intentions, expertise, and material resources. It requires replacing time-limited, contractual, and almost invariably inegalitarian arrangements between aid workers and aid recipients with an approach based on genuine partnership and solidarity. Farmer calls this new model for assisting the poor accompaniment. Accompaniment, he explains, is about sticking with a task until it’s deemed completed, not by the “accompagnateur” but by the person being accompanied.
Through stories about his experiences and the evolution of his thinking, and incisive analysis of both existing data and the lessons of history, Farmer explains in this book what accompaniment means and how it works. In part two of the book, a group of colleagues draw on their own experiences and studies to showcase accompaniment in action, illuminating both its enormous potential for transforming the lives of the poor as well as the challenges and dilemmas they face.
Many people in the world of foreign aid and charitable giving have long championed the principles of accompaniment, but there remains a huge gap between rhetoric and implementation. Part of the reason for that gap has been an absence of data about the effectiveness of accompaniment-based initiatives. This book provides compelling, concrete data that accompaniment works—and that it works better than other approaches.
Inspiring, thought-provoking, and likely controversial, this is important listening for anyone who, like Farmer, seeks to create a better world. Download and start listening now!