Book Review | The non-fiction book tells you how anyone can learn to be a better helper

Journalist Mari Manninen made a practical guidebook.

Nonfiction book

Mari Manninen: Good intentions – Why do we help and what does it mean? Athens. 227 s.

Willingness to help wakes up in times of crisis. In Finland, too, the corona pandemic has given rise to new factors and forms of volunteering. This is stated, among other things, in a study published in August by the online service.

Many were interested in helping even before the corona. Increased demand is reflected in an expanding market for doing good. There are many destinations and channels for charity work. Who exactly should I help and how?

Tieto-Finlandia’s award-winning journalist Helsingin Sanomat has taken up the issue Mari Manninen. In his book Good intentions he maps out the causes and effects of helping.

Above all, the goal is practical. How do you learn to be a better helper — one whose good intentions have more joy than a helper’s own good mind for longer?

Manninen presents recent research and meets aid professionals. However, the protagonists of the book are not experts but well-meaning citizens who want to help – such as Manninen himself. He introduces his readers to orphanage tourists and rescuers of discovery dogs, wonders why the distress of some appeals more than others, and compares the cultures of helping us and elsewhere.

At the same time, it becomes clear what makes people help, how they choose the targets of their aid and what their good intentions ultimately mean for the beneficiaries.

Helpers the experiences are identifiable and illustrative, and when it is time for critical attention, Manninen does not speak out about the incomprehension of others but acknowledges the gaps in his own knowledge. He, too, has thought more of his own needs than those of those to be helped, he too has been selective and ignorant of the causes of the problems, he too has succumbed to reinventing the wheel that established aid organizations spin with years of experience.

Reader such openness is comforting and pedagogical. It is easier to admit one’s own incomprehension when someone else does. In conclusion, Manninen compiles a ten-point list of tips that can really improve the quality of your own help.

Perfect there is no helper, Manninen emphasizes, and the world of relief work does not need heroes, but learning-oriented jobs. Fear of one’s own incompetence is not an excuse to leave those in need to their own devices.

When there is enough sense of responsibility as a partner of good intentions, one’s ability to love one’s neighbor can be developed where there are other useful abilities. Help is needed, and help will come from helping.

The author is a former chairman of the Finnish branch of the human rights organization Amnesty International and a former member of the international board of Amnesty. He has worked for Church Aid as a campaign manager, unit manager, and leading expert.


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