Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Week - A Doctor's Dream

I found this book incredibly inspiring. Usually I find I have to read memoirs slowly and when I have time to focus carefully however I found this a much faster read, as far as memoirs go. I could easily pick this up and fit in a chapter here and there while waiting to collect the boys from school and such.

This book outlines the journey of Buddhi and Tanya and their children as they set out for Arnhem Land to deal with scabies. Supported by Sam Prince who is prepared to bankroll the mission to get rid of scabies and initially with the support of the Northern School of Medical Research they have good ideals but they have much to learn on the ground.

The further the project goes the more they realise the model they have is not going to work. This commitment to doing right by the people of Arnhem Land eventually leads to an incredibly positive outcome but it is not without fallout.

I think this book is a good one for any 'do-gooder' to read. Oftentimes I see a cause and feel stirred by it and want to donate/help out and none of that is bad but reading this has really challenged the notions and models of how that help is offered and made me engage more with what is achieved with good ideals and little understanding.

There are lots of turned corners in my copy of this book - pages that bring thoughtfulness and truth to what has essentially become an unquestioned model for 'helping' disadvantaged communities and indigenous people groups. Sadly the model has often been arrogance 'we have the answers, you can't do it yourself'.

Over the last couple of years in NZ I have been learning sign language and assisting with a small part of the sign language at our church. One of the things that the deaf team (as in the actual deaf leaders, rather than hearing helpers) was the value 'deaf can'. They reiterated to us that hearing people can actually disenfranchise deaf people by trying to do it all for them. Our eagerness to help can actually leave people without a voice and in the process lower their own self-confidence/esteem.

This book paints a similar story. It is about humanness, about true partnering, about appreciating the real skills that people have - even when they also have huge needs - and recognising that being a guinea pig for everyones 'projects of helpfulness' are not effective, sustainable or long term models.

I think this book has something for anyone who longs to be helpful, effective and human in the ways they seek to help others.

Details A Doctor's Dream by Dr Buddhi Lokuge and Tanya Burke. Published by Allen & Unwin September 2014. RRP $32.99 Aus. Also available as an ebook