I got into an interesting argument at the pub last night., about my friend's month long trip to Kenya. He did all the usual jazz, going on his travels and helping the peasant folk with the rest of the group of young upstart activists, building a school, playing with the kids and all that harmless stuff.
But is it harmless really? I've done a lot of reading into this sort of thing and it seems to me like that last thing these countries need is thousands of tourists coming and erecting mediocre (at best) structures all over these villages, when really the community should help themselves.
If a big group of sun-burnt Americans came into my quaint little village and set up some shitty houses then I don't think I'd be very happy. Especially if I made a living building these houses. It's massively patronizing for someone to come up to you saying "I know you're poor as shit and can't do anything about it and are too stupid to help yourself, so let me half-heartedly help you out".
Another thing is the people who go to these third world countries to teach English for like a month. These "teachers" are more often than not very inexperienced, and for the students this probably gets pretty frustrating, when every month a new, useless teacher shows up and by the time they've got in the swing of things it's back to college to finish their liberal arts course.
This sort of short-term charity gets a lot of positive media attention, meaning most of the money goes towards it, when really people should be going and just teaching the people the skills they need to get on with their lives. Sure build a well while you're at it but you better make sure it's a bloody good one, and people actually know how to take care of it. An example of this is some orphanages in South America; a friend of mine went to work in one and it turned out only about a quarter of these "orphans" had actually lost their parents. The rest were either just lazy or couldn't afford to keep another child. Which begs the question: "why are they having more children?". Surely more media attention and charity money should go to supporting these families, or at least giving them some education in contraceptives. Missionaries are partly to blame here, as a lot of these families think it's good to have an overabundance in progeny because of their religion, and seem to be completely ignorant of their dire financial situation.
The thought of going to help out some poor little Africans might sound nice, but half the people who go only go to flesh out their CV with fantastical voyages to arcane lands, in hopes that they can get into a good university or job. These people will presumably never even go back to that village again, where the school has most likely fallen apart, and just sit smug, fanning themselves with their elongated CV. In my opinion, this is not the right reason for someone to go and help these people.
While this rant may seem a little pessimistic and cynical, I'm sure it isn't too hard to see where I'm coming from, and it's entirely possible that I have been very wrong in many of these points, so comments are welcome. I want to know what everyone else thinks.
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