March 31, 2014

Hope In Hell by Dan Bortolotti

Anything about Humanitarian Aid interests me.  It's a job not many would want to have.  But there are people that do it and do it well.  The MSF (Doctors Without Borders) group is one such group in the industry that stands out as a little bit different.  Because they're everywhere and they don't tend to take sides.

Hope In Hell contains interviews and information about the MSF and its programs all over the world.  The chapters contain either stories about places or about the different things that the MSF does, some of their politics, some of their history, and the last chapter contains the Nobel Acceptance speech they gave when they won one year.  It describes some of the harsh realities they face and the different strategies they have for dealing with emergencies.

Although there were interviews in this book, I don't feel like it really centered on anyone in depth.  The book felt more like an overview and I actually think the politics and history of the organization was described more than the individual experiences that people had.  As such, it was hard to develop a connection to the book or anyone in it and it seemed more a series of sad tales about the injuries and illness that encompassed everything.  Granted, there are so many horrible things happening in the area that MSF worked, but I would have liked to see more than just descriptions of suffering and actually get the MSF volunteer's thoughts about them.

This book was very much "political" in the sense that it was describing MSF's ideals and the way it was founded and the different factions that warred about internally in the structure of the organization.  I actually tired about hearing about the history (as it was repeated quite often) and again, would rather have seen more time spent on the volunteer's experiences in the MSF.  The good parts of the books were those describing the work conditions and the hazards.  I found it interesting how they decide where to go and when to pull out of an area based on the happenings around them.  More often than not, everyone is there for the long haul.

Not a bad book, but not the best one I've read on the subject.  From the title, I was just expecting something a little more personal.

Hope In Hell
Copyright 2004
283 pages

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