Is this a good idea?

Maybe not. I have had this thought more than once. The thought that I shouldn’t be doing this. It has crossed my mind.

When I left for Africa for the first time in 2005 as a college undergraduate, I had three questions. 1) Do I really have a privilege in this world? 2) If so, what is this privilege? And 3) If I have a privilege that others do not, how can I support others to have this same privilege? And, is that even a good idea??

Driving to the airport to catch my flight to Ghana with my backpack full of useless things, my thought was that, no, it didn’t really seem like a good idea. I don’t like it when other people try to tell me what to do, so how could I, as a white kid from California, do anything to “help” African communities? Especially since I really couldn’t name any useful skills that I had, and I knew little to nothing about the place I was going. Still, I had to go and make sure. I had to confirm that in fact I was useless, that African development was something for Africans, not me. Then my life could be changed, and I could move on to a different field of work. Maybe American politics?

Five years later, in May of 2010, I left again for Africa, this time starting in the south and spending 5 months on the road. After 3 years of experience working in the field of community development in Central America, my questions had transformed a bit, but one question, the fundamental question, remained: What, if any, role can international youth (like me) play in supporting African communities to achieve their goals for development? In other words, 5 years later and I still had not answered the question—Is this a good idea? Should I be dedicating my life to working abroad towards positive social change or am I out of my place? And lastly, there is plenty of work to be done in the States, why wouldn’t I just work there?

These are the questions, but what are the answers?

I look forward to hearing from each of you right here on this blog over the next few months. Share your ideas, stories and questions of as we explore the role of youth in global development and understand how we, together, can make a positive, sustainable and conscious impact on this planet.

2 Replies to “Is this a good idea?”

  1. As an American I have a pretty clear image in my head of what the change I want to see looks like. The question is what does an African see. What does there revolution look like? Is it a movement of foreigners and natives alike working in harmony, or do they envision more empowerment of the African communities? Do they even want our help. I know there are a million answers to that question! Each person will have a different idea of what they want and need. I envy your position, you have the opportunity as a foreign volunteer organizer to really ask the right questions in a place that like here does REALLY need help. I have often wondered myself if the best thing we as Americans can do for Africa is to simply stay out and leave them be to work it out on there own. I do believe that by activating critical conscious change we will have a much lager capacity as a nation to support others. Like you said there is plenty of work to be done in the States. I however have never had the chance to ask those critical questions. I think you would benefit from continuing the dialoged with the native population and ask “what do you want change in your country to look like and is there a way for me to help? Thank you, I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts and ideas.

    1. Thank you for this absolutely spot on response and for taking the conversation deeper. My apology for never writing this earlier. After 5 years of asking this question abroad, I am now back in the U.S. beginning to seek answers within my own culture. It’s not easy! Do you have a blog yourself? Or any other organizations or writers you recommend? Thanks for your comment!

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