Chris Burman is an “action researcher” in South Africa. I admire his work and asked him to review my recent book, Ebola: Local Voices, hard facts.
(Now available in print or as a kindle ebook!)
I came across the work of Marc Maxmeister some years ago while he was collecting stories in East Africa for Global Giving. As an action researcher I have been involved with a number of initiatives designed to highlight and emphasise the very powerful role that communities play in negotiating challenges such as HIV/AIDS in South Africa. I found this book to be a dynamic read because — all too often — the actions of the people directly affected by crisis are often erased, while the voices of the international experts are shouted out from the roof-tops. Maxmeister reminds us that both are relevant and that — in a perfect world — improved alignment between community and international efforts could have impacts that we have yet to imagine.
Ebola: Real Voices, Hard Facts takes us on a harrowing journey into the transformed realities of communities affected by Ebola in West Africa. Stories of resilience, suffering and the human spirit vividly illustrate the way in which communities respond at a time of crisis, regardless of the resources they have to hand. The detailed account of how real people navigate emotional trauma, health service provision and personal survival with good humour, tears and dedication to caring for their neighbours is a timely reminder of the role individuals, families and communities play in humanitarian disasters. Equally timely, is the reminder that all too often these voices are under-represented — if not marginalized — in decision making processes that directly affect their lived environment.
Maxmeister frames these firsthand accounts with a snap-shot overview of the ‘bigger picture’ beyond the world of the community which is both insightful and accessible for the reader.
The message these vivid accounts leave behind is the way in which the Ebola crisis has transformed lives and the way in which communities have responded, thus transforming the epidemic within diverse communities. It is not so much a story of crisis — it is more a number of stories, with different messages about transformation and the relevance of every voice in that process.