They Come in the Name of Helping

A college student named Peter Brock has produced a documentary about foreign aid and humanitarian assistance, from a new perspective: from the viewpoint of those who are intended to benefit from such intervention. They Come in the Name of Helping looks at international philanthropy and development projects from the perspectives of young adults living in Africa.

Peter Brock is a 22 year-old native of Berkeley, CA, currently studying Political Economy at Skidmore College. In an interview on Social Actions blog, Brock says that one of his motivations for making the film was own internal reaction to volunteer experiences abroad and how he sees many fellow westerners approach the issues of development and poverty. “Perhaps the greatest motivating factor was the prevalence of dehumanizing and patronizing depictions of the poor used as fundraising tools by Western NGO’s and Media outlets,” said Brock. “We all have seen the picture of a starving African child barefoot in the street followed by an invitation to donate money to the organization that will ’save’ them. I was essentially disgusted with the rampant dehumanization of the poor and self-glorifying that characterized many of those groups and individuals who claimed to be ‘ending poverty’.”

As the film’s website states, most of the West’s knowledge about the people of the developing world come from heart-wrenching but superficial newspaper articles and TV news stories about genocide, famine and child soldiering; or from reports by the United Nations or other international agencies. As with the mainstream media, it is outsiders who almost always author these reports, and they are often written to please the donors who sponsored the project in question. Brock wanted to see what development efforts look like from the perspective of those they are intended to benefit. He wanted to know if we could gain insights into improving and reforming our development efforts by simply listening to those people whose lives we have sought to change.

To view the film, go to


About Shelley Seale

I'm Shelley, a journeyer and learner of the world, freelance journalist and author, yoga chick and dog lover. I pound the keyboard from home barefoot every day, and while my boss is demanding she also occasionally lets me have the early afternoon cocktail. I think not going into an office or collecting corporate paychecks are very good ideas, though not always profitable. I have written for National Geographic, USA Today, The Guardian, Texas Monthly and CNN, among others. Neither the New York Times nor Johnny Depp have answered my letters yet. I love yoga, indie movies, wine, and books, though not necessarily in that order. I believe in karma. Mean people suck. If I could have any dream job I would like to be a superhero. I have performed a catch on the flying trapeze, boarded down a live volcano and was once robbed by a monkey in Nepal. But, I don't know how to whistle. My mantra is "travel with a purpose."

Posted on March 22, 2008, in global, inspiration, news, nonprofit, shelley seale, volunteer and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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