Servants, Not Saviors
Ohio Wesleyan Student Explores How Best to Help Those in Vulnerable Spaces
By Cole Hatcher
Name: Raissa Kanku ’20
Hometown: Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
Experiences: Theory-to-Practice Grant, “Understanding Community Service through Spatial Justice in the Rural Life of Vulnerable Children in South Africa” and Borgen Project remote internship
Kanku traveled to South Africa for three weeks in July and August to conduct her research and since August has been completing a related internship with the Borgen Project, a nonprofit organization that aims to reduce global poverty by advocating for U.S. congressional leaders to support bills tied to foreign aid and poverty.
“This is a remote internship that allows me to mobilize 150+ people to help support bills like the International Affairs Budget that help provide more foreign aid to other countries. The internship allows me to research policies and bills to better understand the role of foreign aid within several societies and the benefits for the providers.”
Why I chose these OWU Connection experiences
“After having been part of two Spring Break Interfaith Service Week trips, I became so passionate about the role of community service volunteers within vulnerable spaces.
“Specifically, I wanted to explore what is the best approach for a volunteer to take within these spaces without portraying themselves as saviors. I wanted to find a way of how we, as OWU, could still serve the community without having us lose the main purpose of our service.
“Through the OWU Career Services Office, I got to hear about the One Heart Source program that provides a community service opportunity while training you to become a better volunteer. Thus, helping delete the typical stereotypes that volunteers would have prior and post volunteering. This Theory-to-Practice Grant connected with the kind of work I was planning to do. …”
My favorite moment
“My favorite part about my experience in South Africa was learning from the children. … I was struck in the mindset that I was not going to learn from them but from our head mentors in the program. It was great having the children teach us about their cultures and seeing how proud they were of it despite (issues created by) apartheid.”
“I learned a lot about judgment and how I thought that I was more knowledgeable than the students who had not had the same level of education as me. I realized that we do not only need high education to be an intellectual person. There should be outside experience to make the knowledge complete, because outside experience is also a way of getting in-class experience.
“Being someone who wants to get my master’s in international relations with a specific focus on human rights and humanitarian aid, this program helped me understand the way aid and service need to be provided to individuals for it to be impactful. What we believe might be important for people because of our experience, might actually not be important to them.”
Why I chose to attend Ohio Wesleyan
“I chose to attend OWU because I was really attracted by the programs that OWU provided which allow you to step out in the real world and apply what you have been studying.
“For example, the Wesleyan in Washington program, Theory-to-Practice Grant program, and Global Liberal Arts Alliance allow you to interact with people within different communities, and that immerses you into further researching and understanding your fields of interests.
“I really loved how OWU was not only focused on your studies, but it was about getting out there and challenging the status quo. After having done the New York Times Athens Democracy Forum and a Theory-to-Practice Grant trip studying colonialism in France, I find myself not only further understanding what most authors I read were speaking of, but challenging what they were explaining.”
My plans after graduation
“I hope to get my master’s in international relations while hopefully having a part-time job working within the international relations field.”