Think about what you would do in the following scenario: You’re on a volunteer trip in a third world country for a week or two. There are tons of children in the town where you’re volunteering who are interested in you and you want to take a picture with them.
Do you do it?
One campaign, launched in November 2017, reminds young volunteers why they need to think before they post selfies or pictures of where they are volunteering. The campaign was created by Radi-Aid, “a project of the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH) that fights stereotypes in aid and development, and by Barbie Savior, an Instagram parody account,” according to National Public Radio (NPR).
This campaign specifically targets those who go on volunteer trips in Africa and it makes you think about being more conscious of what you post. The campaign aims to fight against stereotypes that are found through giving aid, whether it’s through volunteering directly or giving donations.
With the semester coming to a close, it also means that there will be various volunteer trips for students to go on, whether it’s through the Alternative Break (AB) program or other programs offered at Keene State College.
When it comes to these types of trips however, volunteers need to reflect on the way their actions affect the communities around them — good or bad.
I’ve seen countless posts where people will go on these sorts of trips and post stereotypical photos like the ones that the Barbie Savior account and Radi-Aid fight against. I’ve seen photos where people will paint themselves to be a superhero rescuing damsels in distress who will never be able to fend for themselves when this truly isn’t the case.
I know people who have gone on trips like these who would rather have the trip benefit themselves than the ones they are helping.
But when it comes down to it, not every person who takes pictures while he/ she is volunteering abroad is meaning to create a fake image.
If you want to take a picture with people that you find a special connection with, then do it. If you want to show people where you are working to open other people’s eyes, do it.
You shouldn’t be subjected to criticism. But after that, put down your phone and really focus on what’s in front of you.
I understand the point that Radi-Aid is putting out there.
When you’re going on a volunteer trip, you need to remember why you wanted to go on the trip in the first place.
I volunteered for a week in Selma, Alabama almost two years ago through the AB program. You don’t know when you sign up where you’ll go.
You are given a theme of different trips and apply for the ones you are interested in.
My trip focused on social injustice. We worked with an amazing organization called Something New and did most of our service out of the church they meet in. Something New works with children and young adults in the Selma community and gives them a safe place to go to dance, sing, act and hang out.
The organization has saved many people who were on the streets participating in gang activities.
Now, I am no Mother Teresa. I haven’t gone back to Selma, and I’m not sure when I will get a chance to. But this trip was so eye-opening for me and it made me want to volunteer again.
The Barbie Savior Instagram page takes away from those who actually want to volunteer and enjoy volunteering. It depicts white people as shallow, stupid and selfish and this is not the case for all who volunteer.
There most certainly are people out there who fit the image they describe on their Instagram posts.
But as someone who likes to volunteer, not to feel better about myself but to actually help out, it is slightly offensive, even if it is meant to be purely satirical.
In attempts to eliminate stereotypes in giving aid, the page has created their own stereotypes.
Grace Pecci can be contacted at email@example.com