My sister just sent me a clip of a 9 year old boy from Tanzanian re-enacting his favourite movie, the 1980s Schwarzenegger film called Commando.

The video is from an organization called Mama Hope who has created a “Stop the Pity. Unlock the Potential” campaign.  I think this is such a great idea, and a great step forward for western NGOs to move away from perpetuating the image that Africans are poor, sick and in dire need of Westerners help. This really hits home for me when I show people pictures back home of Dar es Salaam; a lot of people are completely shocked when they see that I live in a city with sky scrapers. Part of this, I know,  is because their only interaction with Africa is how western NGO’s/Bono/the News portray it: babies with swollen bellies and flies circling them, surrounded by war and infected with AIDS.  This might be a great tactic to get short term funding, but this also completely ignores the diversity that is the 54 countries 55 countries of Africa (for instance, the growing middle class) and is not so helpful for long term development/international cooperation across the continent (not to mention potential investor/business confidence).

More on Mama Hope:

Mama Hope is a California-based nonprofit “focused on building self-sufficient communities in Sub-Saharan Africa.” The organization teams up with locally-based organizations in those communities and invests in “high impact, cost effective projects that meet their fundamental needs for food, water, education and health care.”

More on the campaign, from Mama Hope’s organizers:

Take the word “Africa.” Without thinking, what images immediately come to mind? War? AIDS? Genocide? Or maybe the vision of a small child with a swollen belly, surrounded by flies? Too many non-profits ask for your pity by depicting poor, helpless Africans. But like any stereotype, this portrayal has more exceptions than truth.

Mama Hope feels it is time to re-humanize Africa and look to the positive change that is happening. We’ve had enough of the tragic impressions and abundance of sad, oppressive imagery that floods media outlets and non-profit campaigns. It’s time to stop they pity and unlock the potential.
Through a series of thought provoking videos we hope to break the negative perception of Africa. We want you to see the courage, wit and potential of an incredible culture, people, and continent.


If I were ever to tell you to donate to an organization, I would tell you to donate to this one.

Thank you Boing Boing‘s Xeni Jardin for blogging this.

HT Rachel Reichel