Taking note of the responses received in regard to my African journey, they certainly run the full gamut. While most people are intrigued and supportive, others are utterly disturbed. More often than not, encouragement and concern exist simultaneously.
Some of the comments I’ve heard include:
You know, a guy came back from Africa with a fly bite on his head and maggots hatched out weeks later. You might want to think about that. What’s the matter with helping people here?
Are there any wars going on down there? Why does everyone in this family feel the need to go to Africa?
A flight attendant died there, and they don’t like to talk about it, but I think you need to know. They also have bedbugs down there that we don’t have. People get incurable rashes.
I understand the fear and that awareness is extremely important, but what would Kenyans say about traveling to America?
We’ve had scares with rare diseases like drug resistant TB and the flesh eating virus. Several people died after swimming in American lakes this year thanks to a brain feeding bacteria that enters through the nose. American citizens get shot on street corners. Children and adults are abducted and go missing every day. People die in plane crashes, car accidents, and are hit by pizza delivery guys on bikes. Women are raped in mall parking lots or in their own homes. Predatory CEOs, housing lenders, HMOs and pharmaceutical companies introduce entire American populations to poverty daily. Didn’t we witness a mass murder on 9/11? Safety in America is a myth as much as anywhere else. Bugs, abductions and murders won’t deter me from helping where help is desperately needed. Shit happens everywhere. I’m still going.
To those who ask why I don’t help within the U.S., let me be clear. I help here every day by educating myself on public policy, racism, classism, and abuse of power. I write my representatives weekly and attend rallies and vigils. I vote. I donate constantly to those in need. I invite every American concerned to join in. Just because I have the means to help where there is far less interest or assistance does not reduce my constant activity in this country.
Let me ask in return, since American consumerism is directly responsible for the consumption of Third World culture as well as exploitation of Third World poverty, why aren’t more Americans helping beyond our borders? As the study abroad program “Go ED” says:
Challenge your assumptions and worldview as you engage with history, culture and economics… Let your experience change you in profound ways. Then lead and challenge others with what you have seen and heard… It will enliven your heart, mind, and imagination as you contemplate the complexity and beauty of other cultures.
Open yourself to all possibility. It will make you a better person.