This is an extremely timely and important topic, particularly in the midst of a "voluntourism" boom of Americans traveling abroad with the goal of helping out. Americans are a generous and compassionate people, and I believe they sincerely wish to help heal injustices and inequality. But, they must do so respectfully under the direction of ethical and experienced programs with strong development partnerships with local leaders. To do otherwise risks exploiting local people for the benefit of the volunteer. Yes, we in the U.S. want to "do good," but we must be helpful in a way that is needed and wanted. This isn't always so obvious, and most certainly isn't easy or fast. Local people MUST be in charge of their own development. The best the outsider -- regardless who or from where -- can do is ASSIST in the manner that's requested. Anything less potentially reinforces “Ugly American” stereotypes by simply dressing “do-gooder” programs in humanitarian clothes.
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