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Moody Publishers When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself

Often times when we believe we are doing good, we are in fact doing harm. When this happens we may all stand back and shout "I was only trying to help!" but the damage is done, and often cannot be reversed. Such is the case with many of the ways local congregations have contributed through their various projects such as short-term missions. This book, When helping Hurts, discusses ways in which Christians can help those in poverty without harming those who are already suffering, and how to keep themselves from getting hurt. Beyond helping those in need, it is also the call of every Christian to act responsibly and wisely, while yet being "innocent as doves". In a world of increasing violence and hunger this book is quite timely and will help churches be more effective in both helping the poor ad spreading the gospel.
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Customer Reviews for When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself
Review 1 for When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself
Overall Rating: 
5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Help the Poor...but don't hurt them

Date:February 26, 2014
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dgreegor
Location:MI
Age:25-34
Gender:male
Quality: 
5 out of 5
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*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*
When I heard about this book from a review by a friend I thought it would be a great resource to have. I was right. This book is a great tool on how to properly use aid when dealing with the poor. The solution is not to throw money at the problem but rather find out what is causing the poverty.
Corbett and Fikkert do an excellent job of giving their foundation for helping the hurting: Jesus. Jesus came to earth and helped the hurting. By His example we should do the same. However, there is a way to do so without making this worse than before.
The first thing is find out what type of poverty it is. Is it poverty by tragedy (hurricane, tsunami, medical reasons), economic environment (low income job, high cost of living) or lack of initiative? What the authors have done is show that each situation is not the same. It is the proverbial feed a man to fish, but make sure that there is a river in which to fish.
What was addressed, that never dawned on me, was the mental and psychological battering that the poor are assaulted with that a middle income earner does not face. Thoughts of worthlessness, stupidity, hopelessness, and others plague the poor. These items must be addressed but the solution is not always to give financial aid. What then is the proper response? That depends on the cause.
Sometimes the proper response is to give money but that such situations needs to be examined carefully. It may only be a one time need (i.e. car trouble, damages because of natural disasters, etc) and such needs may be solved by money. However, what about the situations like poor education, loss of a job, etc.? Giving money will not fix these problems but it is often used because it is one of the easiest.
This gets to the heart of the book: overcoming poverty requires a long term approach. It demands time, energy, relationships, and perseverance. It requires getting to know the people who make up the poor, understanding their fears, dreams, thoughts, and worldviews. This is how to help without hurting: empowerment.
This is a great book and should be on the shelf of anyone involved in ministering to those in impoverished environments. I highly recommend that every pastor, homeless shelter director, and missions organization get a copy. In fact, get more than one so you can lend out a copy or two. It will be well worth it.
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Review 2 for When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself
Overall Rating: 
5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Amazing Book

Date:August 15, 2012
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Mother of teen boys
Location:Marlborough, MA
Age:45-54
Gender:female
Quality: 
5 out of 5
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This book has reshaped how I think about implementing biblical directives about helping the poor. When I read it the first time I could not put it down. My husband and I use this book to lead Bible study for our local outreach ministry. My church has used this book to modify its benevolence and local outreach policies.
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Review 3 for When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself
Overall Rating: 
4 out of 5
4 out of 5

Good starting point for helping the poor

Date:March 6, 2012
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Karl
Location:Thailand
Age:35-44
Gender:male
Quality: 
5 out of 5
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Goal and Contents of the Book
The authors state up front that this book is not comprehensive but merely an introduction to the topic. Their stated goal is to recommend “appropriate ways for a North American congregation—and its missionaries—to participate in poverty alleviation at home and abroad, taking into account the God-ordained mission of the church and the typical church's organizational capacity.” (Kindle Locations 250-252)
The book breaks down into three parts, moving from the theoretical to the applied. In “Part 1 : Foundational Concepts for Helping Without Hurting”, the authors talk about the reason Jesus came to earth, namely to bring about healing and reconciliation, both spiritual and physical. Of course, that will not happen completely this side of glory but the church is to represent Jesus in this world by doing what he did, which includes caring for physical needs. The mission of the church is a topic of dispute these days and I will give some thoughts on this later in the review.
In “Part 2: General Principles for Helping Without Hurting,” the authors lay out the differences between relief, rehabilitation, and development, illustrated by many practical stories and case studies. A key thought that drives this section is this: “One of the biggest mistakes that North American churches make -by far- is applying relief in situations in which rehabilitation or development is the appropriate intervention.” (Kindle Locations 1610-1611) Too often, people try to help the poor with a handout whereas what they really need is someone to walk alongside them to think through how to use the assets they already have to better their own situation. Outside help should always enable them to become independent, and not cause greater dependence.
In “Part 3: Practical Strategies for Helping Without Hurting,” the authors apply the previous principles and theory to short-term missions (ch. 7), to churches helping the poor in their own local area (ch. 8), and to churches finding ways to help the poor in other parts of the world through micro-finance and business as missions (ch. 9). As a long-term missionary who interacts with lots of short-term teams, I found chapter 7 to be particularly helpful in explaining why well-intentioned short-term teams are many times counter-productive to those they go to serve, and not even that beneficial for those who go. However, the authors’ goal is not to dump on short-term missions. After giving a critical assessment of short-term missions, they offer positive, practical recommendations for how short-term missions can be done well. In brief, you can’t save the world or fix global poverty during a two week trip, but you can support long-term development that is happening on the ground.
A Good Starting Point
The reason I read this book is because I don’t know much about working with the poor, much less helping them. I’ve given to beggars sometimes, and lent money to several people (I did not get it back). I have saved up recyclables for the bottle collectors in my Thai neighborhood, and sometimes hired them to do yard work. So, I have learned from experience that handouts are not always helpful, and that giving work is better than giving money. But beyond that, I wasn’t sure what to do.
After reading “When Helping Hurts,” I am still not entirely sure what helping the poor should look like in my life. But I have learned some basic principles to guide my thinking. I have a better idea of what not to do, and why not to do it, and also a better idea of the kind of thing that should be done. I feel like I now know just enough to be dangerous, but not enough to actually do anything effective in a long-term-meaningful-development sort of way.
And what exactly is the extent of my biblical responsibility to care for the poor? That may sound like a minimalist type of question, like the Pharisee who asked, “Who is my neighbor?” but I don’t think I am called to full-time community development. I am called to do vocational ministry as a missionary, namely teaching, preaching, pastoral care, etc. I want to take up my biblical responsibility to care for the poor but that looks different for different people. I appreciate the fact that the authors did not say things like “Every church must have an organized church-run mercy ministry” or “All Christians must do such-and-such specific thing otherwise you don’t care about the poor.” On the other hand, I am left to work out the implications of the book on my own, and with those in my church. So, as a starting point, this is a great book for thinking about the pertinent issues but I would need to do more reading, and depend on other people to work out the practical work out what to do with what I’ve read. To facilitate this, the authors include questions at the beginning and end of each chapter to help groups think through the application of what they’ve been reading.
What is the Mission of the Church?
Among American evangelicals, and especially in Reformed circles, there is currently a debate about the mission of the church. At the risk of giving an overly simplified summary of the debate, the question is framed like this: Is the mission of the church, as a formal organized institution, limited to preaching the Word, administering the Sacraments, and caring for the congregation of local believers, thus leaving decisions about schooling, politics, and caring for the poor to the consciouses of individual Christians? Or is the church, as an institution, obligated to be involved in all areas of life, including arts, culture, social and political issues, and thus redeem the culture by pick up the cultural mandate that Adam dropped in the Garden of Eden? Authors Corbett and Fikkert answer the question like this:
“What is the task of the church? We are to embody Jesus Christ by doing what He did and what He continues to do through us: declare—using both words and deeds—that Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords who is bringing in a kingdom of righteousness, justice, and peace. And the church needs to do this where Jesus did it, among the blind, the lame, the sick and outcast, and the poor.” (Kindle Locations 661-663)
I hear and appreciate the authors’ assertion that the church needs to be involved in caring for the poor. But is there a difference between the responsibility of the church as an institution and the responsibility of individual Christians? Biblically, there can be no doubt that a church should care for the poor in its own midst (Acts 6, 1 Tim. 5). But does that responsibility extend to the surrounding neighborhood? To the next town over? the whole city? the other side of the world? How much can one person, or one church, really do? That question is never clearly addressed in the book. At the same time, I was glad to read that the authors’ don’t seek to impose any one particular model of helping the poor on all churches. They write:
“Hence, while the church must care for the poor, the Bible gives Christians some freedom in deciding the extent and manner in which the local church should do this, either directly or indirectly. Sometimes, the local church might feel it is wise to own and operate a ministry to the poor under the direct oversight of its leadership. In other situations, the local church might feel that it would be wiser to minister indirectly by starting or supporting a parachurch ministry or simply by encouraging individuals to reach out to the poor. Wisdom must be used to determine the best course of action in each situation. However, whenever God's people choose to minister outside of the direct oversight of the local church, they should always be seeking to partner with the local church, which has God-given authority over people's spiritual lives.” (Kindle Locations 729-734)
Although it was probably beyond the scope of the book, I wish the authors would have spent more time discussing the mission of the church in relation the church as an institution and as individuals. I appreciate the distinction that David Van Drunen makes between the church and individual Christians in “Living in God’s Two Kingdoms,” and it would have been good to see that distinction made by authors of “When Helping Hurts.”
As a book about helping the poor, Corbett and Fikkett have done a fantastic job. But to help myself think more clearly about the task of the church, I will need to do some additional reading.
Concluding Thoughts
Ever since I learned about “When Helping Hurts” more than a year ago, it has been on my “to-read” list. I am so glad that I finally got around to it, because it is such a great introduction to the subject of helping the poor from a holistic perspective. The authors spend most of their time discussing the alleviation of material poverty but very frequently emphasize the fact that the goal is not just to make people wealthier and more self-sufficient, but to see them reconciled to God and to those around them. Poverty alleviation and economic development should not be done without the proclamation of the biblical Gospel, otherwise the end result will be self-sufficient secular people who have learned to depend on themselves instead of God.
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Review 4 for When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself
Overall Rating: 
5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Great insight for anyone who wants to "help"

Date:March 2, 2012
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a fellow traveler
Age:Over 65
Gender:male
Quality: 
5 out of 5
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This resource is very insightful and provides valuable observations for anyone who wants to help the disadvantaged in a meaningful and God-honoring way.
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Review 5 for When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself
Overall Rating: 
5 out of 5
5 out of 5

This book exceeded my expectations.

Date:February 29, 2012
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Sue Micetic
Location:AZ
Age:55-65
Gender:female
Quality: 
5 out of 5
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The authors present their informatin in this book in a compelling yet nonjudgmental way. All who hope to truly help others should read this book. I regret that those of us who are old in the faith did not have this information earlier. Much of what has been done and is still being done in the name of Jesus does more to feed the need of Christians to feel good about themselves than to produce long-term good in the lives of those supposedly being served.
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Review 6 for When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself
Overall Rating: 
4 out of 5
4 out of 5

Date:February 23, 2012
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Scott
Location:New Albany, MS
Age:35-44
Gender:male
Quality: 
5 out of 5
5 out of 5
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4 out of 5
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The book was very enlighting. I don't think I will ever view poverty and poverty alleviation the same way again.
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Review 7 for When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself
Overall Rating: 
4 out of 5
4 out of 5

Date:January 23, 2012
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jefergus
Location:Green Bay, WI
Age:55-65
Gender:male
Quality: 
4 out of 5
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4 out of 5
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4 out of 5
4 out of 5
Good book - enlightening. Has changed the perspective and practice of our church's deacons.
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Review 8 for When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself
Overall Rating: 
5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Well worth reading

Date:November 25, 2011
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Donna Janes
Location:New Brighton, MN
Age:55-65
Gender:female
Quality: 
5 out of 5
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For all those with a big heart who want to help others, this is a must read. It gives a perspective on "helping" that other resources overlook. Excellent!
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Review 9 for When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself
Overall Rating: 
5 out of 5
5 out of 5

It really hits home!

Date:October 20, 2011
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Linda in Borger TX
Location:Borger, Texas
Age:55-65
Gender:female
Quality: 
5 out of 5
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I haven't read the whole book yet, but what I have read really hits home. The principles set forth in this book are right on target. Having been on the "other side of the fence," I can relate and affirm many of the things that are discussed in the book. Too often "people in need" are in need not because of something they have done "to deserve it" but are victims of poor economy which robs them of a job. And sometimes age and other factors only add to the problem. And having experienced being the receiver rather than the giver, I can attest to how the one being helped is too often hurt in the process. It is important to remember that everyone has feelings and hopes in life. And it is our responsibility to keep their dignity intact and help them to rise up to do what they can to realize the hopes and goals they have for themselves. I don't know of anyone who wants to be poor and helpless. This book has been really good so far and has touched on many things that I have personally experienced in the short time we were without a job and income, but continued to have bills and needs to eat, etc. I am thankful that someone has written such a book and I pray that the combination of reading this book and of my own experience and understanding of "those in need" I will be a helper and not a hurter.
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Review 10 for When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself
Overall Rating: 
5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Excellent Book

Date:July 21, 2011
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Luke
Location:Indiana
Gender:male
Quality: 
5 out of 5
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If you do work in any developing country, this book is a must read. It will help keep you from doing damage to those you are seeking to help, and also help you understand the carnal motives in our own hearts that lead to a type of god complex where we actually do damage to our own soul in the process of trying to help others.
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Review 11 for When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself
Overall Rating: 
5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Date:May 17, 2011
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Cy02
Quality: 
5 out of 5
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I was anxious to get my hands on this book and it didn't disappoint. The authors give a balanced and grounded argument for their stance on poverty, all while being both practical and biblical.
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Review 12 for When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself
Overall Rating: 
5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Must Read For Outreach Christians

Date:April 8, 2011
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Pamela
Location:Oakdale, CA
Age:Over 65
Gender:female
Quality: 
5 out of 5
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A different perspective than with what I was familiar. Gives a realistic viewpoint that decreased my generalization about outreach to the homeless and helpless. Emphasizes the difference made when those in need accept the Lord; very important and central theme. Scripturally supported throughout; which I am grateful.
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Review 13 for When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself
Overall Rating: 
5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Really opened my eyes!

Date:February 22, 2011
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mike
Location:Jacksonville, FL
Quality: 
5 out of 5
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This book help put many pieces of the puzzle together for me. It really opened my eyes and helped me see more effective ways of helping the poor. I bought several copies to give to friends.
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Review 14 for When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself
Overall Rating: 
5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Excellent Biblical Philosophy and Excellent Tools

Date:January 4, 2011
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Britt
Location:Valdosta, GA
Age:35-44
Gender:male
Quality: 
5 out of 5
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This is a great book. I have really struggled in knowing how to help and be involved with those less fortunate than myself. This book exceeded my expectations in explaining the issues involved and pointing out Gods purpose in all this. It doesn't make the issue of poverty alleviation easy, because it never will be. But it does raise the issues and helps the average reader understand much better than they did before how to effectively be involved with Gods purpose in this area, both at home and on the mission field.
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Review 15 for When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself
Overall Rating: 
5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Must read if you are trying to help people

Date:October 21, 2010
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Rich
Quality: 
4 out of 5
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5 out of 5
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Anyone planning to reach out to those in need or the under-served should first read this book. It challenges your understanding of poverty and offers insights to help guide your thinking. It is a great small group study book and a great catalyst to get churches thinking about reaching out beyond their building walls and fulfilling what Jesus has called us to.
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Review 16 for When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself
Overall Rating: 
3 out of 5
3 out of 5

Date:February 22, 2010
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Phyllis Beggs
Makes good points that need to be made. Probably good in group study but a bit hard to read as individual.
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Review 17 for When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself
Overall Rating: 
5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Date:December 13, 2009
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Barbara Soyster
When Helping Hurts challenged us to evaluate our efforts to help the poor. Their premise that the poor feel worthless and that one must deal with that first (rather than focusing on material goods) changes how one does ministry. They are well-rounded, pointing out that if the poor do not become followers of Jesus, they are likely to substitute worship of Money for worship of their previous gods. Their mantra of working WITH the poor rather than doing things FOR them or TO them rings in my head and is helping me to evaluate (and modify) some ministries I am involved in around our town and abroad.
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Review 18 for When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself
Overall Rating: 
5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Date:December 2, 2009
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Don Overholt
This is a great book for anyone that wonders what is the best way to help the poor out with out creating more problems for them.
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Review 19 for When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself
Overall Rating: 
5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Date:October 30, 2009
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Sonja Wittich
What an eye opener for dealing with missions close to home or around the world. God gives time and money to use wisely, but it starts with my attitude toward those who hurt. Thank you.
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Review 20 for When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself
Overall Rating: 
5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Date:October 9, 2009
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Paul Shelling
I was excited to see the title of this book advertised a while back. I work voluntarily with refugees here in New Zealand and grapple with many of the issues covered. My family lived in Papua New Guinea for 2 years and we were often in the position helping hurting people as they came to our door for assistance. We extended our arms of kindness(and our finances, and our limited knowledge of medical issues) to the people who came and now we are able to analyze our efforts through this book and contemplate whether we helped or hindered, whether we left people with dignity intact or if were too paternalistic towards them. I am 2/3 way through the book and so far I think we did okay but the message of the book will certainly influence the way we do things in the future.A must read for anyone serious about making a lasting and beneficial difference in the lives of those stricken with poverty in any of the forms that poverty takes. We intend to be working long term with the poor in SE Asia in the near future and this is certainly one book that I will take.
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