• Georgia Rodgers

The White Saviour Complex. Stop Trying to 'Save the World'.

Updated: Apr 15, 2019

During my three years studying International Development, I have not shied away from sharing the detrimental impacts voluntourism continues to cause. However, still to this day, I have friends who go on university and school trips abroad and teach English to vulnerable communities; knowing well and truly of their potential impacts. When these people have been challenged for their choices, many respond with excuses such as 'this program is different'...... but I can assure you, it is not.

I am aware a lot of this understanding comes from education... I do not disagree with that, and I acknowledge my privileged in receiving such knowledge. However, it's 2018 and there is a multitude of information online providing us facts and information. A lack of knowledge before you now embark on a trip, is nothing more than an ignorant excuse.

And I believe a lot of people's choices continue to be a result of intentions stemming from self-gratification. Such intentions can come with good intents, however each and every one of these intentions are simply ignorant if you do not do your research before hand.

I believe it is important to emphasise that intention does not matter as much as impact when discussing this issue.

'No White Saviours' is a brilliant organisation who use social media to challenge the concept of the 'White Saviour Complex'. The White Saviour Complex refers to "a white person who acts to help non-white people, with the help in some contexts perceived to be self-serving."

Within an article written by No White Saviours, they describe the issue of volunteering as such:

"The problem is this persistent narrative that passion and good will are enough to solve complex problems in vulnerable communities".

I have listed below a few questions to ask yourself before embarking on a volunteer trip:

Inspired and adapted from John McCollum's interview by Asia's Hope: https://asiashope.org/tough-questions-about-orphanages-an-interview-with-john-mccollum/

  1. If it isn't acceptable for individuals within your own community, why is it good enough for people within over exploited nations such Nepal?

  2. Am I qualified? Such as speaking the language, or having a qualification in the focused specialised field?

  3. Before embarking on my journey- do I have an in-depth understanding on the nations cultural, political and social aspects of society?

  4. Can I commit long-term and develop an understanding of the community’s needs?

  5. Does the organisation align with my ethical and moral views of the world?

  6. Is the organisation legally registered within the country?

  7. Does the organisation meet the minimum standards for child care and/or working conditions?

  8. Does the organisation have long-term, trained staff who are of the same nationality as the nation I am working within?

  9. Does the project I will be embarking on have long-term strategies? If so, how effective are they?

  10. Does the organisation require child protection policies that cover all staff and volunteers?

  11. Does the organisation have realistic strategies for stable, long-term funding?

  12. Does the organisation have effective strategies put into place to transition children into further stages of their lives?

  13. Does the organisation have a system that shows it can be financially accountable and transparent?

  14. Do my intentions out way my overall impact within the community? And will that impact be negative or positive?

  15. Is my impact necessary and needed?

  16. Are there any volunteer opportunities within my own community that I can consider instead?

  17. Is my contribution creating a sustainable impact?

  18. Am I taking the potential job of someone who could be employed locally?

  19. Would donating funds be of a greater use to the community, than my time and presence?

  20. How will my impact be received long-term?

If you cannot answer all of these questions prior to your volunteer trip, then that is a clear sign you should not be embarking on it and that your impact would be one with detrimental concerns.

I understand that when society feeds you nothing but praise and reverence for all your 'good' benevolence, it can be quite challenging to receive a critical analysis. However, with privilege comes responsibility. And with responsibility comes education and adhering to creating and contributing to a better and safer world for everyone; not just for your own self gratification.

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