While studying at medical school, Kidder explains, Farmer visited a church run by the priest Jack Roussin, or Father Jack. The church is in a largely African American neighborhood. Jack, much like Farmer is a colorful, charismatic man. Farmer, impressed with Jack’s commitment to public health and social justice, appoints Jack to the board of advisers of PIH.
Although Farmer seems like an anomaly when compared with the average American, Kidder makes it clear that he’s far from the only person who chooses to devote his life to helping the poor and suffering. Farmer may be the most successful humanitarian in the book, but he’s far from the only one.
Father Jack travels to a slum in Lima, Peru, where he’s to take on a new parish. He tells Farmer that PIH should start a project there. Farmer agrees, and convinces Tom White to raise 30,000 dollars for the venture. In Lima, Jack and Jim Kim plan to establish a second Zanmi Lasante, devoted to curing diseases. Their plans are extremely ambitious: they imagine a hospital so well-run that other slums in South America will imitate it.
Father Jack is an ambitious character, and seems to share Farmer’s mindset—he doesn’t think in terms of dollars and cents, but rather in terms of lives being saved and quality of life being improved overall.
Father Jack and Jim Kim encounter difficulties almost immediately in Lima. Their hospital, in the small district of Carabayllo, is vandalized by guerilla soldiers, since it’s regarded as “crumbs for the poor,” i.e., a pathetic charity effort designed to sap the poor of their revolutionary energy. Then, in 1995, Father Jack becomes seriously ill, and has to be flown back to Brigham in Boston, where he’s diagnosed with TB. Within only a few days, he’s dead—the victim of drug-resistant TB.
It’s frustrating that Father Jack’s first hospital is destroyed by Peruvians—the very people the hospital is meant to help. The guerillas’ reasoning is very frustrating as well, but also somewhat understandable: they believe that any outside humanitarian efforts short of a revolution are actually harmful to Peru, because they create a system of dependency and just reinforce the status quo. Farmer and Kim, who strive to remain apolitical, reject this mindset.
Farmer is devastated by Father Jack’s sudden death. He investigates drug-resistant TB, wondering how deadly it’s been for South America. He visits hospitals throughout Peru, always asking the doctors if they’ve failed to successfully treat any cases of TB. He discovers that there have been many cases of failed TB cures, even in very good hospitals. Farmer assembles his data and sends it back to Jim Kim in the U.S.
The death of a close friend makes Farmer especially invested in pursuing TB treatments in Peru—in this sense, Farmer’s work in Peru is markedly different from his projects in Haiti. At the same time, it’s clear that Farmer is still motivated by liberation theology and other selfless, far-reaching belief systems.