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TAF Service Model

One of the main reasons for starting our foundation was to revolutionize the way we serve abroad. At the heart of our mission is empowerment and collaboration through long-term relationships. We want these values to not only be carried out in our projects by our staff, but also to be instilled in our volunteers who support our efforts to carry out our mission. This has led to the formation of our empowerment based service model, which guides the interactions between our staff, partners, and volunteers. Ultimately, we seek to serve in a responsible and ethical manner that promotes global citizenship.


The White Savior Complex 

Global Citizenship

(Our Goal!)

The Service Continuum

What is the "White Savior Complex"?

 because there is much more to doing good work than "making a difference." There is the principle of first do no harm. There is the idea that those who are being helped ought to be consulted over the matters that concern them.

Africa has provided a space onto which white egos can conveniently be projected. It is a liberated space in which the usual rules do not apply: a nobody from America or Europe can go to Africa and become a godlike savior or, at the very least, have his or her emotional needs satisfied. Many have done it under the banner of "making a difference." 

How, for example, could a well-meaning American "help" a place like Uganda today? It begins, I believe, with some humility with regards to the people in those places. It begins with some respect for the agency of the people of Uganda in their own lives. A great deal of work had been done, and continues to be done, by Ugandans to improve their own country, and ignorant comments (I've seen many) about how "we have to save them because they can't save themselves" can't change that fact.

he idea that those who are being helped ought to be consulted over the matters that concern them. The idea that, before we do anything else, the best and most important work that we can do is to listen to marginalized people, give them a platform from which they can reach a wider audience, and use our platforms to help amplify their voices. This is the realwork that we should be doing. Anything else — any other way of “freeing” women of color — is at best condescending and colonialist and at worst downright harmful and dangerous.

There are so many examples of white folks charging to the rescue without considering how those they are rushing to help might feel about their “rescue.” 

Our white privilege colors our perception in ways that are hurtful to other people, and even when our intentions are good, our actions can be problematic. The only way to get out of this trap — and, as feminists and anti-oppression activists, we should very much want to get out of this trap — is to humbly listen to women of color when they speak. We need to set our egos aside, stop loudly proclaiming that we’re not that type of white feminist, close our oh-so-knowledgeable mouths and listen.

 If you’re unfamiliar, the term is used to describe the white Westerners who travel to third world countries and make the entire affair an exercise in self-congratulatory #sacrifice. 

The attitude that Africa needs to be saved from itself, by Westerners, can be traced back to colonialism and slavery,” says the makers of Barbie Savior. “It’s such a simplified way to view an entire continent.”

Similarly, it is imperative to focus on evidence-based best practices within the field of international service rather than relying on anecdotal experiences. Many people have the best intentions, but lack the necessary tools to be effective. Here’s why trips like that are a problem.


1. They are entirely too focused on how the volunteers benefit. 


But it shouldn’t be about you, it should be about the people you’re there to help.


“As admirably altruistic as it sounds, the problem with voluntourism is its singular focus on the volunteer’s quest for experience, as opposed to the recipient community’s actual needs.”

But if you must travel, make sure the organization you’re going with is well-respected on the ground and is truly invested in the people or community that it is there to help, not just in the volunteers’ experience. Many organizations have a mission statement, check to see if its focus is on the community or the voluntourists. Not all of the short-term efforts are a lost cause if the organization’s focus is on the right things. Then continue to invest in the cause when you return and use that newfound understanding of world to help improve it. Good things can come from these trips if people use them as a catalyst for good in the future, as long as it isn’t at the expense of the local population.

nternational development is too often impeded by international dependence.


There are times when a community is forced to be fully dependent, like during the aftermath of a natural disaster or when violence forces people out of their homes and into resettlement camps. Another example of this is the current refugee crisis, where people need all the help they can get right now. Barring exceptions such as those, when a community learns to rely on donations it is less inclined to become self-sustainable, which stifles growth.


It’s the whole teach a man to fish principle. Sustainable development is key. This takes research, dedicated investment, patience, collaboration across multiple parties, and a ton of work (think years, decades). Many organizations are committed to this type of real work.

Further, when people visit only the worst of a country, they don’t get to experience anything beyond its helpless stereotype. Can you imagine the take-away of a group of foreigners who came the the U.S. visiting only Skid Row? It would be incredibly inaccurate to assume the rest of America was like that. Yet, far too often, people associate the worst region of a developing nation with that nation as a whole.

Gain some cultural understanding before embarking on a new land, and realize the many good parts of the place you’ll be traveling. Try to learn something from them; many cultures are less greedy, more forgiving, etc. than those in the west, so go in with a sense of humility and appreciation of the local population.

However, volunteers should recognize that they’re one drop in a far bigger, far more damaging ocean, and that their short placement should not be held in isolation. Volunteers may not be around to see the negative effects of their activity, or may be so ethnocentrically blinkered they cannot recognize what’s happening right in front them. But this doesn’t mean these effects aren’t absolutely real and long-lasting. International volunteering – when done badly – can and does result in serious harm.”

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