My friend Denice recently chided me for failing to post good news about Uganda on Twitter. Her criticism was fair, because it's true: I tend to highlight news that I think is most important--about Uganda or anywhere/anything else--and unfortunately, with the exception of my frivolous thoughts about sports, much of that news tends to be negative.
But there's a second reason, and that's this--while the great degree of positive stories are too local in nature to be of interest to most beyond those with direct connections to the communities described, the remaining stories are a load of crap.
Take, for example, this story from NPR, about 22-year-old Katie Davis who recently became a foster mom to thirteen orphaned and abandon children in Uganda.
Four years ago, Katie Davis was homecoming queen at her high school in Brentwood, Tenn. She had a yellow convertible and planned to study nursing in college.
But those plans changed just a little. Today, she's in Uganda, sharing her home with 13 orphaned or abandoned girls, ages 2 to 15. Davis is the legal guardian or foster mother for all of them, and hopes to one day adopt them.
"I think that's definitely something that I was made for," said Davis, 22, a devout Christian who idolizes Mother Teresa. "God just designed me that way because he already knew that this is what the plan was for my life — even though I didn't."
God and The Kristof are certainly smiling down, and I'm sure thousands more got the wam-and-fuzzies while listening. But am I alone in thinking that this kind of reporting relies on exactly those tropes of the white man's burden that journalists, aid workers and academics should be militating against? There's a brief mention that local child advocates think the idea of anyone--let alone a twenty-two-year-old--taking responsibility for thirteen children might be madness, but this concern is almost immediately swept away so that Davis' other good deeds can be highlighted.
Davis has also started a nonprofit organization called Amazima Ministries. With support from U.S. donors, Amazima helps 400 children go to school, provides community health programs and feeds more than a thousand children five days a week. Davis is the director, and the job supports her and her family.
To her credit, Davis does acknowledge that she's not a total lunatic:
"My first instinct is not, 'Oh, a baby — let me adopt it!' Because I think, best-case scenario, they're raised in Uganda by Ugandans," said Davis. "But knowing there is nowhere else for them to go, I don't find myself capable of sending them away."
Away to what? Is it the case that these children are doomed to Oliver Twist existences if Katie Davis doesn't swoop in to save the day? Are there no inidigenous organizations that strive to care for children orphaned by AIDS and place them in Ugandan homes? Are these efforts successful or not, and why? We're not likely to find out from reports like these, and that's a shame.
Instead, we're stuck with Katie Davis who, when pressed to explain her motivations to assume such an inappropriately heavy burden at such a young age, sums things up with "I don't know. These are the children that God brought to my door."