What is your initial thought when you look at this picture? It’s okay if it is negative. If I looked at this picture from an outside perspective, my initial thought would probably be critical. There is something that creates a negative reaction about this white, privileged girl posing with a child she probably knows nothing about. Something that makes people think this girl was feeling the “savior complex,” rescuing a child of color from their plight. Or, maybe you had a positive thought about how cute that baby is and how beautiful her mother in the background is. Nonetheless, I want to take this opportunity of writing this blog to talk about perspective, MEDLIFE and my experiences.
So, as you may know, the privileged white girl in this photo is me, Marissa, and some of those criticisms are probably true about this photo and similar photos you’ve encountered of friends and family who have gone on service trips abroad. Luckily, the organization I chose to commit to, without doing a lot of research, has a mission far removed from the ideas behind the “savior complex.” To me, this photo represents my discovery of this mission in action during the mobile clinic week in Moshi, Tanzania that would change my life in more ways than I ever could have imagined.
For those of you non-Ohioans, I should explain that the Ohio State Buckeyes are a huge part of the Ohioan culture, especially in my family. I was born and raised to be a buckeye fan, going to “The Shoe” at a young age to watch the cheerleaders of course. With that being said, seeing this precious child with an Ohio State outfit on 8,000 miles away from home evoked many thoughts and emotions within me that I wanted to capture in order to remember and look back on.
First was the excitement and disbelief that we just so happened to wear Ohio State gear on the same day. Did the mother know Ohio State students would be at this clinic or was it just a complete coincidence? Then, I felt an immense sense of humanity. Knowing that when her mother dressed her in this outfit on that hot Tanzanian summer morning, she looked into her daughter’s eyes with the same love and hope for her future as when my mother dressed me in the same outfit as a child. Although this child and I may have been born into completely different environments with different access and opportunity, our parents both wanted a fulfilled and healthy future for us.
I see this in the communities we work with here in Lima. Almost every time community members propose a new project, they mention wanting it to improve the health, safety and environment of the community for their children. When I listen to these community members, I hear and see the same hope for a better future as the parents of the child in Tanzania had and that my parents have for me. These experiences have helped me realize that we are all just humans trying to survive and thrive in our lifetimes in order to better the world for future generations.
This is why I believe in a better future for the pueblos jovenes surrounding Lima and communities experiencing poverty throughout the world. With the commitment of these communities and NGOs like MEDLIFE who are committed to working WITH those experiencing poverty rather than FOR them we can improve overall quality of life. I believe that the individuals living in these situations did not choose to be there, but rather were placed there through a complex system that we have created over thousands of years. Although this may seem like an impossible circumstance to reverse, through generations of people aiming to improve the quality of life for the following generation we can make a change. Mano a mano (hand in hand), poco a poco (little by little) we can transform the world and if enough people believe in this transformation it will become a reality. I would like to end this brief excerpt by urging you to join the MEDLIFE Movement in whatever way you see fit in order to play your role in global development.