The Problem With Little White Girls (and Boys)

“I don’t want a little girl in Ghana, or Sri Lanka, or Indonesia to think of me when she wakes up each morning. I don’t want her to thank me for her education or medical care or new clothes. Even if I am providing the funds to get the ball rolling, I want her to think about her teacher, community leader, or mother. I want her to have a hero who she can relate to – who looks like her, is part of her culture, speaks her language, and who she might bump into on the way to school one morning.

After my first trip to the Dominican Republic, I pledged to myself that we would, one day, have a camp run and executed by Dominicans. Now, about seven years later, the camp director, program leaders and all but a handful of counselors are Dominican. Each year we bring in a few Peace Corps Volunteers and highly-skilled volunteers from the USA who add value to our program, but they are not the ones in charge. I think we’re finally doing aid right, and I’m not there.

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Removing rocks from buckets of beans in Tanzania.

Before you sign up for a volunteer trip anywhere in the world this summer, consider whether you possess the skill set necessary for that trip to be successful. If yes, awesome. If not, it might be a good idea to reconsider your trip. Sadly, taking part in international aid where you aren’t particularly helpful is not benign. It’s detrimental. It slows down positive growth and perpetuates the “white savior” complex that, for hundreds of years, has haunted both the countries we are trying to ‘save’ and our (more recently) own psyches. Be smart about traveling and strive to be informed and culturally aware. It’s only through an understanding of the problems communities are facing, and the continued development of skills within that community, that long-term solutions will be created.”
Except From The Problem With Little White Girls (and Boys) by Pippa Biddle

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3 thoughts on “The Problem With Little White Girls (and Boys)

  1. oh my….I have so much to say but I have to first work what part is an emotional reaction and what part, if any, is intellectual. Oh my goodness. *breathes deeply*

  2. Ok, emotion in check. The writer is correct to say “Sadly, taking part in international aid where you aren’t particularly helpful is not benign. It’s detrimental.” I hesitate a little when I come to the “white saviour complex.” I understand what they are trying to say but it made me wonder a little. In my limited travel experience, especially to America, I found that ignorance about Africa was not race specific. It was a countrywide issue. Many people of all races labour under the burden of the only story they know about the third world. The one about how poor, desperate and in dire need of a saviour we all are. its knowing only one side of any story that make anyone’s view one dimensional. It’s coming across to me, and I am open to correction here, as though the opinion of the writer is based on the assumption of white volunteers only.

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