According to a new report from the World Bank, billions of dollars in international development cannot compare to the desire of young, white, prospective Woodrow Wilson School concentrators to change the world.
The exploding industry of volunteer tourism, spearheaded by an unprecedented gathering of wealthy children of ex-hippies “trying to discover themselves,” has singlehandedly dissolved centuries-old ethno-religious tensions, thawed harsh restrictions on women’s rights, and eradicated malaria.
Sarah Dante, for one, is unsurprised. She is just one of many that have taken advantage of the chance of a lifetime—to travel while doing something that will change her college applications forever.
This past summer, Dante traveled from her estate in Stamford, Connecticut to a small Yoruba village suffering from oil pollution and lack of infrastructure in northern Nigeria. While she expressed dismay at the idea of missing a summer of polo, she recalled the experience fondly knowing that she made a difference.
“I spent an entire afternoon teaching the community how to barbeque pork to replace bat as a source of protein, since bat meat contributes to the spread of cholera,” Dante said. “I read afterward that Muslims can’t actually eat pork, but it’s really more about raising cultural awareness and communication. Ultimately, what’s important is I felt like I was making a difference, and I got an amazing Instagram picture of me giving a piggy-back ride to a paraplegic orphan with leprosy.”
“You know, awareness and communication!” she beamed.
Dante dreams of the day when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie browse Instagram and see the picture of her and her orphan friend, tagged as “Abdul :))).”
“I think they’ll be touched by my story, and eventually decide that it would only be appropriate that they adopt the entire village,” Dante remarked. Her gaze wandered for a moment as she outlined the TED talk she’d be asked to give, perhaps entitled “Tales from the Okavango: A New Kind of Vaccine.”
“And then, Ken Budd, author of The Voluntourist: A Six-Country Tale of Love, Loss, Fatherhood, and Fate and Singing Bon Jovi in Bethlehem, will walk on stage and give me a hug,” Dante continued. “Then, and only then, I’ll know it was all worth it.”
Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Richard Stengel lauded the glories of volunteer tourism in a presentation to the Council on Foreign Relations on Thursday.
“Neither radical Islam nor the legacy of centuries of colonialism stands a chance against the Southside Presbyterian Church singing ‘We Are the World’ on a bus to Nairobi that doesn’t quite meet safety requirements,” said Stengel, while representatives from the IMF, BP, De Beers, Pfizer, and Nestlé nodded solemnly in agreement.
– AHT ’17. Illustrated by MGM ’17 & AZ ’16.