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An important message from #BarbieSavior in Africa

@BarbieSavior via Instagram

Meet Barbie Savior. She’s twenty-something and it’s up to her to save Africa and all Africans from poverty because OMG “Orphans take the BEST pictures! So. Cute.

Her interests include: “Jesus. Adventures. Africa. Two worlds. One love. Babies. Beauty.” according to her Instagram profile.

What’s that? You want to see her resume before you hire her to build a school, or spend a month teaching English in a classroom?  No need! She’s self-proclaimed “not qualified.” Instead, she’s “called” to do this work.

And even though she’s not qualified she’s only there to help because “It’s not about me...but it kind of is.” – quotes the satirical Instagram account addressing the notion of “White Savior Complex.”

Ok...you can’t really meet her. The "BarbieSavior" Twitter and Instagram accounts belong to two anonymous women, who wanted to satirize the “white savior complex” of many international development volunteers (including themselves.) In an interview with Huffington Post, the two real-life twenty-somethings drew inspiration after reflecting on their own trips and experience volunteering in Africa.

We are SO thankful for our recent $100,000 donation! We thought it most prudent to spent 60% of it on this baby! I truly believe the designer pink will propel our ministry forward in a way a typical drab color could not. SO blessed!!!! Now we can collect those tears faster then ever! Or was it teach? Or give out shoes? Whatevs. We can do what we feel is necessary faster than ever!!! #4wheelfashion #cruzinforabruisin #zoomaluyah #driven4him #fourwheeldrivesavior #cruisincrusader #wheelinanddealin #dealinlovethatis #allidoiswinwinwin #iwouldwalk500miles #butletsberealidratherdrive #blessed #lowridinsavin #givemethattoottoot #givemethatbeepbeep #myremixtoignition #hotNfreshonmymission #itsthefreakinweekendbabyimabouttosavemesomechildren #bouncebouncebounce

A photo posted by Barbie Savior (@barbiesavior) on

Yes, the hashtags ARE offensive and Barbie Savior IS provocative (which may be partly why she has nearly 70K followers on Instagram.)

SO exhausted and filthy from working all day in the village! A sweet friend caught this candid of me and I realized that no matter how much of a mess I look, my true beauty lies within. Thanks, friend, for capturing this unexpected, raw, authentic moment. "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." Proverbs 31:30 #ivegotallthree #nomakeup #exhausted #totallycandid #haventshoweredindays #coincidentalcleavage #hotinmorewaysthanone #humanitarianhotty #witdatbody #babyimworthit #mybodyisawonderland #cutetoboot #stunningsavior #dropitlikeitshot #fetchinglyfabulous #oops #imean #humble #truebeautylieswithin #storeupyourtreasures #beautifythesoul #ihopeitsstillclearthatimhotthough

A photo posted by Barbie Savior (@barbiesavior) on

The creators of the account acknowledge both the ridiculousness of the photoshopped images and aren’t afraid to address the haters.

“If you’re offended by the account then you’d better be offended by the real accounts who actually display this behavior in all authenticity. That is the real offense,” they said to Huffington Post.  

They’re also okay with acknowledging their own “white savior” moments. In fact, it’s what sparked the idea for the account. In this Huffpost article, the two reminisce on their “White Savior days” recalling some of their volunteering regrets.

“We have both struggled with our own realizations and are definitely not claiming innocence here,” the makers told Huffpost. “Barbie Savior, we hope, is an entertaining jumping off point for some very real discussions, debates, and resolves.”

It is a good jumping point for real discussions.

While Barbie Savior is outrageous, untrained, and amusing, she highlights an important message – take some time to reflect on your own skills, educate yourself as much as possible and be open to listening and even criticism when it comes to a volunteering experience. This can be a significant life-lesson when donating your time in another culture and country or in your own community.

There are a lot of volunteers who have an incredible impact and are beneficial to supporting communities facing poverty around the world. To stop volunteering your time and wanting to help others is NOT  the message to be learned here. The messages is about volunteering in a responsible and verifiably constructive ways that respect local cultures and expertise.

If you want to learn more about the “Africa is poor” myth check out the TEDx Talk from Global Citizen’s Simon Moss in the video below. (Especially 13:30 for animation and commentary almost as sarcastic as the beginning of this article.)

The real takeaway in the TED talk comes in right after the sarcasm. Around 15:00 in the video Simon says, “If you go in knowing that you might actually not be very much help at all. You’ll change your perspective and it could be really valuable thing.”

While poking fun at Barbie Savior, she can serve as reminder to reflect on qualifications and intentions before jumping on a plane #backtomymotherland


The views expressed here are not necessarily those of each of the partners of Global Citizen.