A decade ago Tori Hogan was an intern in Kenya with the group Save Our Children. A teenager there gave her a sobering view of the effectiveness of international humanitarian aid, telling her that aid workers come and go, but nothing changes. Since then, Hogan has traveled to more than 75 countries in search of successful aid programs. The project has spawned a film series and a new book, “Beyond Good Intentions: A Journey into the Realities of International Aid.”

To hear host Dave Iverson discuss his experience volunteering in Haiti click on the audio player below:

Tori Hogan, author of "Beyond Good Intentions: A Journey into the Realities of International Aid"

  • Good topic. I hope you will go into some of the religious organizations who send people to help in Africa, especially. How effective are they and how much do they proselytise?

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    Have heard some great things about the work Sean Penn is doing in Haiti. There are a select few international aid organizations I give to on a regular basis. Heifer International is one. While I am a Christian I do NOT want to give to an organization that proselytizes since I think when one gives help it should not have strings attached.

  • cbwilson

    I would like to hear more about your criticism of the aid worker who was building a well, but with the condition that he hold evangelistic services. What was the outcome of the well-building effort? And why did you bring his Texas background and the names of his sons into the discussion?

    • Tori

      Sure thing, Craig. That particular missionary named Brad ended up building several wells in the area under the condition that he would be allowed to convert the villagers to Christianity and be able to build churches in the communities. That sort of “trade” made me rather uncomfortable because it didn’t seem right to be dangling a life-saving project in front of the community with such a major condition attached. Brad’s story isn’t unique, though luckily it’s not the norm among missionaries abroad. However, I’ve even heard of cases where missionaries have put water wells in villages under the control of the local minister and only allowed those who have accepted Jesus as their savior to access the water. Most missionaries would agree that doing such a thing isn’t particularly aligned with Christian values. I haven’t heard any updates about whether or not Brad’s efforts were successful, though last I heard he was still living in rural Mozambique with his wife and six boys. I quickly mentioned the fact that Brad named all of his boys after guns on the air (the ones I met were Kanon, Gunner, Magnum, Remington, and Colt) to emphasize the fact that perhaps this isn’t a guy who is a traditional example of an American missionary.

  • Kashmira Patel

    I guess I am a bit late in commenting here to get this on air…but will write in nevertheless.

    I was listening to this program on my way to work, and was struck by what the guest said that volunteers should go into this with the intention of learning and gaining a better understanding and perspective on life, instead of thinking they are doing something from someone else.
    I have been helping an organization in India, Project Why, for a long time now. Earlier it was purely donations, and since last winter, I have started making handmade jewelry, the proceeds from which go entirely to the organization. So far, I have only helped monetarily, never gone there in person. My biggest fear has been that I will not be able to handle the reality up close like that. I will not be “nice” to the kids that the organization supports. I think that one idea from Tori might help me fight that fear and do more!

    Here is more information about the organization:

    And here is contact information for my handmade jewelry store:

    Thank you, Tori and Dave! Really enjoyed the 10 minutes that I managed to listen into this show.

    Kashmira Patel

  • FayNissenbaum

    I didn’t hear good concrete examples of the dysfunction other that it was not as it should be. She began explaining about shoddy building practices but did not detail why it did not work or who was incompetently administering the program. Why not name names? The truth is always a defense and there are whistleblower offices for reporting corruption.

    • Tori

      Thanks for your feedback, Fay. Yes, it was hard to squeeze in all the details about that particular project and the complicated reasons that it failed. As Dave mentioned, the organization in that example was CARE International. I was impressed with their attempt to focus on more sustainable approaches to rebuilding the houses through a market-based approach– it seemed like an innovative and worthwhile idea. Unfortunately, the local builders didn’t always follow the building plans set out by CARE’s architects which meant that the houses weren’t any better off than before. CARE hoped that they could build solid enough houses that they wouldn’t have to come back again to rebuild after the next earthquake. However, the community had their own ideas about how the houses should be designed, and the benefits of using better building materials or new design ideas wasn’t conveyed well enough by the aid organization. For the project to have succeeded, the builders and home owners needed to have full buy-in to CARE’s idea and vision. Chances are, if CARE had more carefully consulted with the community in the first place (and understood their ideas about what the community members valued when it came to house design), this failure might have been avoided. To see the full episode on this topic from the Beyond Good Intentions film series you can visit the following page: Thanks!

  • Mia

    Thank you Tori, for bringing the issue of aid effectiveness to light. I work for an international grantmaking organization that funds small grassroots organizations, so thank you for highlighting the fact that they are underfunded, but are the ones who are making the most with their funding. What a difference they could make if they received the attention they deserve!

  • SynerGenetics

    Does charity even work or does it interfere with the country’s own ability to develop itself?

    The reason I asking many countries developed without any aid it seems charity is more of a stumbling block that actually help.

  • This is something I’ve contemplated for a long time. I’m a disaster relief worker in Health Services for the Red Cross and a “Cowboy EMT” (I’ll explain in a moment). The Haiti Earthquake was a disaster when I found the Red Cross helpful, but too cumbersome to deploy with them. A couple days after the earthquake, I called my Red Cross Chapter to see if I could deploy with them. They told me the American Red Cross never deploys out of the country, and it was the International Red Cross I should speak to. There was no inside track, no instructions on how to join the International Red Cross, and they had no system for spontaneous volunteers. So I “Self-Deployed” to Haiti, hence the name “Cowboy EMT”. On my own dime, I booked a flight to Miami, and a connecting flight to the Dominican Republic. From there, I went to the Dominican Red Cross and asked for a ride. I met a couple other Cowboy EMTs who told me they had already been waiting for a ride for 24 hours. We decided to split a cab to the border with Haiti. We got to a border town and slept in an old school house. At dawn, we jumped on a Red Cross bus to Port-au-Prince. We made friends with a United Nations soldier from Peru. He got us a ride into the Port-au-Prince airport (which is also a huge US military base) Once inside we asked some American soldiers if there was a field hospital we could volunteer at. They said “Yeah, hop in.” They dropped us in front of the field hospital. As we approached, we could hear the cries of pain, doctors shouting orders, and the general chaos. We worked 16 hour days there for the next week. It was the most gratifying volunteer work I’ve ever done. I have a diary of the experience on my Facebook page under “Haiti Earthquake Diary” and “My Notes” at
    Some stories are graphic with adult language.
    My point is, sometimes you can do more good as an individual than you can with a huge NGO.

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