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2010-11 Service in a Foreign Land

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Together, these books present a multi-faceted exploration of service. They describe an experience both inspiring and deflating, exhilarating and enervating. Service can and does change people’s lives, perhaps the servant even more than the situation he or she wishes to address. These selections examine the motivations for service—both noble and self-serving—while also outlining the challenges and disillusionments of humanitarian efforts. They raise important questions about the individual’s responsibility to society and to other human beings.  


Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder follows Dr. Paul Farmer on a personal journey to open a health clinic in Haiti. There he fights to alleviate TB and AIDS-related disease among the poorest and least-served populations in the world. This master work of non-fiction examines the interaction of political, economic, social and public health systems and clearly shows how one person can make a difference.  

This is Not Civilization: A Novel by Robert Rosenberg tells an inspired, sweeping story of a young Peace Corps volunteer exploring various avenues of service. The novel includes multiple perspectives, from volunteer to aid recipient and from domestic service to international. Whether running a teen center on an Indian reservation, teaching English to factory workers in Kyrgyzstan, or organizing earthquake relief efforts in Turkey, Rosenberg uses insight, realism, and humor to examine the costs of trying to do good in the world.