There’s a new video out from the group that brought us the spoof ‘Radi-Aid – Radiators for Norway’ charity pop song last year. ‘Who wants to be a Volunteer?’, which uses the ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire?’ quiz show format to send-up the idea that Africans are all helpless victims waiting for Europeans to come in to save them.
It makes for uncomfortable watching – particularly with the backdrop of Ebola (with the misperception of many that Ebola is rife throughout the whole continent of Africa rather than in just three west African nations), and the reforming of Band Aid 30 years on. Band Aid was wonderful in thrusting international development centre-stage like never before. And damaging in perpetuating stereotypes about ‘infertile, drought-ridden Africa’ in a way that it has been hard to shift since.
Volunteers are of course doing many wonderful things – look at the staff from the NHS who have volunteered to help in Sierra Leone with the Ebola outbreak. But it is refreshing, too, to think seriously about how we volunteer, in whose interests, and with what long-term consequences. And why not use humour to do so?