Toward the end of Bending the Arc, an invigorating new documentary about the worldwide organization Partners in Health (PIH), one of its co-founders Jim Yong Kim states that “optimism is a moral choice.” This hopeful 34 year history of PIH amply illustrates this contention and should revitalize many an activist.
I first became acquainted with PIH through Tracy Kidder’s equally inspiring 2003 biography (Mountains Beyond Mountains) of another co-founder, Paul Farmer. Like Kidder’s book, Bending the Arc serves as a great introduction to the work and key players behind PIH, as well as filling in the intervening history for readers of Mountains Beyond Mountains.
Bending the Arc largely follows a chronological path, opening in 1983 with the meeting of two idealists in Haiti. Ophelia Dahl was an 18 year old on an ophthalmology mercy mission; Paul Farmer was a 23 year old pre-med student helping out in a clinic. Both saw a gaping need and committed to offering quality medical treatment to the destitute of Haiti’s central plateau.