July 17, 2011
First Billing: Paul Farmer’s Book Dedicated to Two True PARTNERS



I have started reading Dr. Paul Farmer’s new book, Haiti:  After the Earthquake, released this week with the press coverage it deserves.  Someone needed to write this book and no one better than Paul Farmer and his colleagues, who have examined their own experiences after the earth broke, through the lens of Haiti’s brutal history.


Paul had the excruciating task of naming scores of humanitarian actors and colleagues who labored on the ground and in the Boston office, round the clock, for many months, and still are.  The entire book could have been filled with the names of these heroes.  And so, when Paul chose to dedicate the book to two of PIH’s long-term benefactors and board members — Al and Diane Kaneb — that said a lot to me about those who are considered PARTNERS to Partners in Health.


I know the Kanebs a bit.  There are no donors more humble or more private about their philanthropy.  Some may try to Google them.  DON’T.  They would be offended.  I can imagine the deep gulp they must have taken when Paul asked if he could name them with his first words of gratitude. 


“This book is dedicated to Al and Diane Kaneb, and all those who stand with the people of Haiti.”


In the fall of 2008 Diane and Al graciously agreed to have lunch with me to answer my many questions about Partners in Health.  We had just made our first tiny grant to PIH in response to the inundation of Haiti by four consecutive hurricanes.  I knew virtually nothing about Haiti, except what I had just read in Mountains Beyond Mountains.  It was clear from our conversation Haiti had bored into the souls of this soft-spoken couple.  They had traveled to Haiti many times, knew the politics and carried Haitian pride and suffering as if it were their own.  IT TRULY WAS.


When New England International Donors had its first book discussion in January of 2009, it was on Mountains Beyond Mountains.  In front of a warm fire in a home that had hosted many world visitors, we discussed the leadership, the funding, the strategy — and sometimes lack of strategy — of Partners in Health as it sought to put the poor first, whatever the consequences.   When an occasional critique of the model arose, the Kanebs bristled, as if protecting a loved one.  Indeed, their support for Partners in Health is motivated by intense love, by a deep faith, and by faithfulness.  With tremendous discretion, wisdom and self-sacrifice, they “accompany” Partners in Health, and make health care with dignity real for hundreds of thousands of persons.  No one deserves first billing more.


Dr. Paul Farmer commented on the release of Haiti:  After the Earthquake in numerous outlets (Charlie Rose:  PBS: WNYC: The Capital Times; Democracy Now!; The World:  Public Radio International; The Boston Globe; NPR Fresh Air; Kirkus Book Reviews.)  See http://www.pih.org/blog/entry/media-coverage-paul-farmer-on-haiti-after-the-earthquake/.