“Savior Barbie” Surprisingly Captures What’s Wrong with “Voluntourism” in Africa

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Savior Barbie stands in front of a decrepit classroom in some remote African hut-turned-
classroom and explains, “At first, she was scared of my white skin. But I know we will learn each other. We are bound together by spirit and our humanity. And now, by cloth. I feel like mothering all of this country’s children. I was chosen for this!” Another photo shows Barbie posing with an African child, “Orphans take the BEST pictures! So cute.”

orphan barbie.png

The satirical Instagram account dubbed Barbie Savior — likely inspired by the parody account Socality Barbie — depicts the doll as a Jesus-loving adventurer running an NGO that provides drinking water to locals. In her Instagram, Barbie Savior, in pink heels and a perfect tan, reflects on her experiences as a committed voluntourist…

I just landed and I’m crying because of the beauty…then crying because of the
heartache. Then when I realize the clean water my eyes are wasting by just CRYING….I
cry some more because I don’t know how to harness my tears yet. Oh, Africa. You really
know how to make me soul search!

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Oh, Barbie Savior, this must be your calling… that is, until she leaves in a few months.

The account was started only a month ago by “two twenty-something white women” who have
worked in East Africa and more than likely experienced the hardships and the superficiality
within voluntourism, and, as Nigerian-American author Teju Cole calls it “White Savior Industrial Complex.”

While the account hilariously parodies the “life-changing” selfie-snapping behaviors of many
volunteers in Africa,
Barbie Savior manages to highlight some of the harms these well-
intentioned, albeit completely naive, voluntourists create. For example, researchers in South
have found a growing trend of “orphan tourism,” in which orphanages operate more like profit-driven businesses, intentionally subjecting children to poorer conditions to entice more volunteers and more donations, rather than charities.

So, perhaps in a surprising twist, Barbie Savior might be a more scathing satire than initially

Tom is a travel writer, part-time hitchhiker, and he’s currently trying to imitate Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? but with more sunscreen and jorts.