Mar 11, 2015
Emily Troutman photographs and writes about people living in poverty across the globe. She's a freelancer and to help pay the bills, Troutman sometimes took lucrative commissions - up to a thousand dollars a day - photographing the work of aid groups. Her two years in post-quake Haiti were no exception.
"For most of the freelancers I knew in Port-au-Prince, nonprofit gigs were a lifeline," Troutman writes in her blog Aid.Works. "I never wrote about the organizations I worked for and tried to keep a wall between those two parts of my life."
That wall came crashing down earlier this year when USAID announced that it had suspended one of its biggest nonprofit contractors, International Relief and Development, from receiving additional federal contracts. USAID said investigators found “serious misconduct” in IRD's performance and the way it managed taxpayer funds.
Troutman was especially disturbed by the allegations because IRD twice paid her to photograph its work in Haiti. "When the IRD scandal blew up, I was looking at my Facebook, I was looking at my Twitter feed, I knew a lot of people who had worked for IRD and nobody said anything," Troutman tells us.
She says that silence reflects a larger culture of reticence among aid workers. "Nobody wants to say anything about it because nobody wants to bite the hand that feeds them. That's the problem. These organizations make a lot of money for a lot of people."