Savior Barbie also highlights a point that advocates and experts working on the continent have been observing for years—well-intentioned but naive volunteerism (or “voluntourism“) is at best ineffectual and at worst harmful to the developing countries it’s meant to serve. It drives an industry that sees 1.6 million people do volunteer work while on vacation every year, spending as much as $2 billion in the process. Nigerian-American author Teju Cole once dubbed this impulse the White Savior Industrial Complex.
The damage can be depressingly direct, as Jacob Kushner, a journalist in East Africa, points out in a recent editorial, “The voluntourist’s dilemma.” In South Africa, “AIDS orphan tourism,” where volunteers temporarily care for children who have lost their parents to the virus, has left children with attachment disorders and encouraged orphanages to purposefully keep them in poor conditions to attract more volunteers.
On a related note, there is also Humanitarians of Tinder.
Both offer lots of lessons on things not to do as you prepare to volunteer or conduct research in a developing country this summer.
HT Melissa Lee.