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June 10, 2010

'The Apprentice' Meets 'Slumdog Millionaire'

Documentary 'The New Recruits' highlights a Christian using capitalism to help the poor


The filmmakers behind The New Recruits, airing on PBS stations on Tuesday, June 15, say it's a cross between The Apprentice and Slumdog Millionaire. Perhaps, but the main thing is this: The documentary explores how capitalism and Christianity are doing a world of good to help the poor.

The film follows Joel Montgomery, a Christian from Alabama, and two other business school graduates who use their smarts in creative ways to alleviate poverty in different parts of the world. It documents Montgomery's quest to help rural Pakistani farmers counter an impending water crisis, using drip irrigation systems as an alternative to flooding their fields. Montgomery's faith is a focal point of the film.

The 30-year-old Montgomery, who had previously led missions trips to Costa Rica and Malawi and had delivered Christmas presents to Hurricane Katrina victims, told The Tuscaloosa News that as a specialist in international development, he entered the field of "social entrepreneurship," which explores ways that global business can serve, rather than take from, the poor.

"The premise is that you're helping the underserved go to the next level," he told the newspaper. "You're creating jobs, and ultimately helping the country develop. . . . [With charity alone], you create a tremendous amount of dependency. Number two, you're treating the poor as passive, not active participants. And your growth is always limited by the amount of money you can raise."

Montgomery continued, "I see myself as long-term being an ambassador between business and the church. The church sends billions of dollars a year abroad, and a lot of that money is not having the impact that people think it's having. One of my goals is to affect the lives of millions of people, not for my own glory, but because of my faith."

For air dates and times, click here. The DVD is also available for purchase, and here's the trailer:


Dear Mark,
Thanks so much for highlighting the film. I work with the Acumen Fund and would like to clarify that though Joel's faith does play a large role in the film, it does not play any role in why we selected him as an Acumen Fund Fellow. Our Fellows are selected from around the world and represent many faiths, from Christianity to Islam, and for many of our Fellows, faith is not a driving force at all. It is in fact critical that each person who participates in the program recognize how important it is to respect the religious views of their peers and the people they work with in-country. In the film, you will see the passion with which Joel shares his knowledge of business tools with his Pakistani colleagues, but not his religious views. We are proud to include people of many faiths and perspectives in our program, and hope that this film does not create the mis-impression that our work is in any way affiliated with any specific set of religious views. This would potentially undermine our efforts to build business models and a community that address poverty for all people, regardless of faith.

This is a good work and I love Yasmina's comment regarding faith not playing a role in Acumen's efforts. Who knows what the driving force is for the others but at least for Montgomery he makes it clear; it is his faith.