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An African’s Message for America

Cassandra Herrman | The New York Times   in 
January 7, 2015

A volunteer trip abroad has become almost a rite of passage for a certain set of Americans, particularly students. This Op-Doc video profiles a Kenyan activist who has one simple question for them: “Why?”

Nearly one million people from America volunteer abroad each year. They are mostly young, mostly affluent and overwhelmingly white. It made me wonder: when we look to do community service, why do so many — particularly the privileged among us — look to places so far from home?

I followed the Kenyan photojournalist and activist Boniface Mwangi as he spoke with American college students to get to the core of why it can be more appealing to “save” Africans like him than to address social inequalities on their own soil.

As Americans, we’re inundated with images of hungry African children, but what about the plight of children in this country? Our child poverty rate is at its highest level in 20 years, with nearly one in four children living in homes without enough food. Among our homeless population, there are nearly 2.5 million children. Mr. Mwangi points particularly to the racial inequality in this country, highlighting the staggering rate of incarceration for African-American men, which is nearly six times the rate for white men.

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