Previous Page Return to main page Next Page

Chapter 11: Societies and States (DD)


Today we shall visit a Non-Governmental Organisation here in Cracow. It is one branch of a highly respected organisation based in New Jersey, which has chanelled many millions of dollars in aid to Poland and other Eastern European countries since the end of communism. It describes itself as 'an independent, non-profit organisation with no wish to interfere in political agendas'. Its spheres of operation are primarily economic; more specifically, they have credit schemes to assist individual entrepreneurs, who they see as a group that experienced unfair treatment throughout the years of communism; they do not like to support proposals from a cooperative. They also finance cultural activities, especially programmes to enable Polish youth to spend short periods in the United States. I have agreed with the Director, an old classmate of mine, that you can ask her any questions you like; please write up notes of the discussion later in your journals.

The first thing to strike Tom and Ania when they visited the NGO was the succinct 'mission statement' emblazoned on the wall behind the Director's desk:

Mission Statement: 
'To provide independent, objective, expert assistance to local initiatives for the enhancement of civil society, free enterprise and prosperity, on the basis of globally shared human values'


Ania was surprised that the Director, although Polish, was determined to speak English. Ania found this irritating: a week earlier she would have been grateful, but now she wanted to demonstrate her improved fluency in Polish.

The second surprise was how very good her English was, though she could not identify the accent. 'I spent three years in South Africa when they still had apartheid and we still had communism,' she said. 'I was lucky, I suppose, to be sent there by one of our Foreign Trade organisations. I had other postings too, but that was the best. I've been able to go back from time to time, and I've had a lot of consultancies recently. It's interesting to compare how the NGOs operate in Africa with the developments here in Poland.'

'What differences are there?' asked Tom, genuinely interested.

'It's basically the same game,' replied the Director. 'The most important activity is to keep the money coming in. So you have to be able to write upbeat reports for the sponsors, most of whom are based in North America. That requires a lot of skill. It's exhausting, too. I'm going to retire next year, though in theory I could go on for another twenty years. They are closing the Cracow office, because basically the job here is done. Some of the staff are transferring to a new office in Uzbekistan, but I prefer to take an early pension.'

Dr. Dylagowa looked very surprised. 'Can you afford to retire so young?'

The Director smiled. 'Well, that was the compensation for all these African consultancies.. I used to earn at least a hundred times more than government ministers! We always had state officials asking if they could work for us, on secondment or even permanently. In some countries it seemed that the NGOs wielded more state-like power than the state itself.'

When they had left, the Professor insisted on drawing everyone's attention to another type of NGO worker. 'I have known plenty who were simply devoted to their cause, utterly selfless. They were certainly not motivated by high salaries, and in fact they did not earn much at all. Most of them were motivated by their religious beliefs.'

Previous Page Return to main page Next Page