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“Savior Barbie” Surprisingly Captures What’s Wrong with “Voluntourism” in Africa

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“Savior Barbie” Surprisingly Captures What’s Wrong with “Voluntourism” in Africa

Savior Barbie stands in front of a decrepit classroom in some remote African hut-turned-
classroom and explains, “At first, she was scared of my white skin. But I know we will learn each other. We are bound together by spirit and our humanity. And now, by cloth. I feel like mothering all of this country’s children. I was chosen for this!” Another photo shows Barbie posing with an African child, “Orphans take the BEST pictures! So cute.”

orphan barbie.png

The satirical Instagram account dubbed Barbie Savior — likely inspired by the parody account Socality Barbie — depicts the doll as a Jesus-loving adventurer running an NGO that provides drinking water to locals. In her Instagram, Barbie Savior, in pink heels and a perfect tan, reflects on her experiences as a committed voluntourist…

I just landed and I’m crying because of the beauty…then crying because of the
heartache. Then when I realize the clean water my eyes are wasting by just CRYING….I
cry some more because I don’t know how to harness my tears yet. Oh, Africa. You really
know how to make me soul search!

white tears barbie.png

Oh, Barbie Savior, this must be your calling… that is, until she leaves in a few months.

The account was started only a month ago by “two twenty-something white women” who have
worked in East Africa and more than likely experienced the hardships and the superficiality
within voluntourism, and, as Nigerian-American author Teju Cole calls it “White Savior Industrial Complex.”

While the account hilariously parodies the “life-changing” selfie-snapping behaviors of many
volunteers in Africa,
Barbie Savior manages to highlight some of the harms these well-
intentioned, albeit completely naive, voluntourists create. For example, researchers in South
Africa
have found a growing trend of “orphan tourism,” in which orphanages operate more like profit-driven businesses, intentionally subjecting children to poorer conditions to entice more volunteers and more donations, rather than charities.

So, perhaps in a surprising twist, Barbie Savior might be a more scathing satire than initially
imagined.

Tom is a travel writer, part-time hitchhiker, and he’s currently trying to imitate Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? but with more sunscreen and jorts.

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