In the News: Why Volunteer Abroad?

posted by Tanya Schwarz

A recent Op-Doc, titled “An African’s Message for America,” directed by Cassandra Herrman for The New York Times, follows Boniface Mwangi, a Kenyan activist and photojournalist, as he engages with American college students over the issues of volunteerism and humanitarianism abroad. He encourages these young people to work towards the betterment of their own communities, instead of going elsewhere to help “others” in need. We at the CIHA Blog agree that the issue of “going abroad” to “save” others is problematic and needs to be addressed. Why is it that “saving Africa” is so exotic for people? Why are people in Africa (and elsewhere) often portrayed as “the deserving poor,” while those in need in the U.S. are often labeled “welfare queens”?