This article appeared in Maclean's in the September 29, 2008 issue. It raises some interesting questions about the validity of cross-cultural engagement. Do we really make a difference? Are we properly prepared? What's our motivation for going?
Have a read. Let me know what you think.
Helping the world. And me.
Is volunteering about saving the world or enhancing a resumÃ¨?
Posted By Rachel Mendleson On September 19, 2008
Sara Minogue went to Tanzania expecting to make a contribution. A journalist with several years' experience, she was drawn to a government-funded opportunity to raise the profile of human rights issues. Journalists for Human Rights, the Toronto-based NGO offering the eight-month program, sent her to Dar es Salaam to teach reporters how to effectively report on abuses. But when Minogue, who was 28 at the time, arrived at her placement in the capital city in 2006, she was struck by "how ridiculous" it was for her to be in a position of authority. The week-long pre-departure training JHR had provided touched on culture shock, human rights theory and the West African media, but left her with "very little clue about where I was going," she says. As it turned out, many of her colleagues at the Media Institute of Southern Africa had university degrees, and all of them knew more about the human rights abuses in Tanzania than she did, she says. "I felt extremely silly and embarrassed." Within two months, Minogue had quit. Other than writing a report for JHR, she says she spent the rest of her time "hiking around and hanging out" on Canadian taxpayers' dime.
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