White Saviours

Posted: 4 April 2019 in Cultural, Haiti, International Development, South Sudan
Tags: ,

2_Stacey-Dooley.jpgStacey Dooley – “White Saviour” in Uganda. ?
Bill Lovett – “White Saviour” in Uganda. Really?
The charity I work for -“White Saviours” in Uganda/South Sudan. Really? Really?

The fuss has gone, but the issue remains.  Was Stacey Dooley, and so many other white folk flying in to “do good” actually do bad.  Reinforce racial stereotypes.  Emote.  Post “look-at-me doing good” pics on FB and Instagram.  Then fly off, leaving those village Ugandan’s no better off whatsoever.

I can’t comment on Ms Dooley as I know not her work.  But as for Hope Health Action, and my part in their work, and in my previous work in Church Mission Society, I can speak of.

  • Is this fly-in-and-fly-out work? Or does it have long term commitment?  I confess!  I fly in and out.  Then back again.  And again, and again.  The work is long term, years, developing into decades.  When my bones are but ashes in the crem (not so many years from now, admittedly), HHA supported work in Haiti and South Sudan will be flowering.
  • White male directors, “white experts”? Or national leaders, selected by nationals? I confess! I’m a “white expert”.  But I work under national leadership.  Under Dr Paul Toussaint, Immacula Augustine, Sharon Charles – names unknown to most of you.  But well known in Cap Haïtien, and Bidi Bidi refugee camp.
  • White goals, white priorities? Or goals selected by nationals?  I confess!  I turn up with my priorities – but they change. Arriving in Kampala last month, I had my plan.  But after a week of close analysis with Sharon and Benon (of Cyan), we agreed a quite different approach.  Probably in July, I will sit with Dr Paul and Admin Immacula in Cap-Haïtien and discuss their top 10 priorities for Budget year 19/20.
Kampala 03 18 (32).jpg

Some of the E.Africa team

But there is a problem here.  Funds are given by western donors according, people like you, according to their perceived priorities.  Which may match local priorities, but not always 100%.  This takes us back to the Dooley picture – baby and child pics generate the good funds.  Mental health or disability pics – do not.

The notion of the White Saviour Complex fingers another vice – that of egocentrism.  The buzz the White Saviour get from doing this.  The chance to feel good about oneself.  The chance to put look-at-me pics on social media.  I confess!  I do feel good.  I have meet wonderful people, men and women of real stature.  Folk who have endured suffering and are not cowed.  You in Kla’ and Cap’ – I’m enriched for working with you.  If one does this stuff and is not moved – then we should not do it.

Alas. There are a lot of vanity projects, ill thought out, dangerous reckless dishing out of dosh.  Yes, I have seen in the past, a white visitor handing out rolls of money.  This person used to hold dinner parties in UK to raise funds, then take cash out and give it out to people they knew in Uganda.  The then Head of the School of Nursing sighed when I complained about this.  She said “I cannot stop this person.  But even if the money is not going to the most deserving or needy, it is at least going to student nurses.”

Ug wheelchairs b.jpg

Wheelchair delivered.  Joy.

As for working under national direction, believe me, it is far harder than you’d expect.  When the local eminent dignitary plays up and the needed project suddenly stops, we need to listen to the underlying critique.  To what we as visitors have overlooked. Or unwittingly caused offence.

Finally, as a Christian, many of these folk are in effect my Sisters and Brothers in Christ.  Praying together.  Listening together.  Working together.  Doing nothing is not an option.  At the level of humanity, Humanist readers would agree.

►      Goodbye White Saviour
►               Hallo action to help the Sister/Brotherhood


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