I have followed Nick Kristof’s columns for several years, read the previous book he and his wife, Sheryl DuWunn, wrote and saw him speak at the Free Library this fall. I also quit a job in marketing for a large financial institution to pursue a degree in social work. I now work in two schools in the beleaguered Philadelphia school district. Maybe it’s needless to say, but reading A Path Appears was like preaching to the choir.
Like their previous book, Half the Sky, Kristof and DuWunn illuminate the challenges of the most needy and the various aid groups that try to help them with a mix of practicality (data and statistics) and personal stories.
Due to my recent studies in social work, much of the first section was a refresher for me, but they do an excellent job of detailing the risks and challenges those experiencing gender-based oppression face across the world. They explore the ripple effects of poverty including sex trafficking, lack of education, teen pregnancy and domestic violence.
I enjoyed and appreciated the second section where the authors tried to tie in how corporations can have an impact, and, more importantly, how individuals working in corporations can feel empowered. When I worked in corporate America, I often felt like it was never enough. That even my multiple volunteer positions and numerous donations were just a drop in the bucket. However, as Kristof and DuWunn remind us, the drops in the bucket are so necessary and add up. I wish I had recognized the value of my drops more fully at the time.
The author’s point of view on the number of aid/charity organizations and the sheer number of people wanting to start their own charity was new and interesting to me. I often feel a need to “do something BIG”, but was reminded that the most effective response is to find organizations I am passionate about and that do good work and support them however I can. Right now, I’m interested in supporting early childhood reading, a local organization that provides necessities to infants born into low-income families and an organization that works to provide feminine hygiene products to women in need.
DuWunn and Kristof also include an argument against the current way we evaluate non-profits and the expectation that those working in the non-profit world will make pennies. There are so many talented people in the corporate world who would be excellent in the non-profit world, but the salary becomes a barrier. And those who donate want all their money to go toward the people they are looking to support. There needs to a better balance. I’m not saying those in non-profit should be millionaires, but they should be earning comparable salaries. It could lead to more longevity and retention for those who start out in the non-profit world.
The one critique, which is true anytime I encounter Kristof and DuWunn’s work, is that I spent the evening searching volunteer positions and organizations to support. They include a wonderful resource guide in the back, which can feel overwhelming, but is also a starting point. So if you read this book, be prepared to feel inspired to respond.
There is also a corresponding three part documentary film available on PBS which bring to life many of the personal stories included in the book and is excellent as well.