By Natchasiri (Froy Choi) Kunaporn
When we arrived, I had one concern that was resonating in my head. As far as my intention for this trip goes, how will I ever get out of the stereotype of a young ‘asungu’ believing that she could save everyone in Africa’?
Perhaps, I do not want to bear the guilt of people mistaking my intentions as a chance to ‘be touristy’ and do some humanitarian work, because it is completely the other way round. I find myself being mad for having better ‘luck’ than many people here. Being completely aware about the amount of time and the specific tasks I have, I try not to get belittled about my project and the impact it will produce. I do not want to be lost in the belief that I am the change, but I want to believe that I can complete my part and be a part of the big picture, in the long run.
Africa is often wrongly referred as a whole homogenous country. When we complain about the things we cannot have or when we couldn’t finish our food, people around us overuse the phrase ‘think about the kids in Africa’. As a young child I never understood how that phrase and my follow through actions would make any children in Africa get less hungry? Especially now that I got to meet so many of the Malawian children living in very poor conditions, they are still smiling more than that kid back home who couldn’t play on his iPad during dinner. In my opinion, that phrase was used upon us to create guilt and false generosity. The heroic characteristic that the western world has built around the ‘more privileged’ has been soiled into many minds hence making many feel like a few weeks away would make them come back home heroic. We are students on loans, we are not millionaires, we implement ideas with our little gofundme accounts. My peer said to me, ‘We are not handing out water bottles, we are laying a foundation for the long term.’ It is always useful both when I am feeling upset and when I am feeling too much of the bliss.
Lately I have been feeling a lump of guilt about many people suffering closer to home. Many of us forget that we have access to projects in Canada for the indigenous people who are living in conditions very close to a third world country. However, still I am more exposed to humanitarian work so far away from home. I feel like there is a strong culture of voluntourism that cannot be easily changed. Many often come for a short time, thinking that they succeeded and leave.
We love being heroes, but as harsh as it may sound, it is very important to remind ourselves the most beautiful flowers do grow in the darkest place.
About the Blog
Since 2013, students participating in Transformative Praxis: Malawi have been writing blog posts reflecting on their experiences of participating in action research in Malawi. The original blog with the full archive can be found here