The number of U.S. university students traveling abroad for the summer to
engage in small-­scale development efforts in Africa, Asia, and Latin Amer­
i­ca has increased dramatically over the past de­ c ade. The students volun-
teer in rural health clinics; set up micro-­lending initiatives; build schools
and dig wells; or­ga­nize the export of local textiles to markets of the global
North—­and the list goes on. Compelled by a mix of utopian and prag-
matic desires, ­ t hese students at once hope to help the world’s poor while
building résumés and finding adventure. A po­liti­cal movement by another
name, perhaps.
This book—­written by and for undergraduates captivated by the idea
of do-­it-­yourself (diy) development in the global South—­describes proj­
ects undertaken by Duke University students since 2008 in two villages in
northern Togo, West Africa. The proj­ects are inexpensive and aim small,
and they are tethered to a common theme: youth culture/youth flight.
Among other efforts, ­these students have built a cyber café, or­ga­nized a
microfinance initiative for teens, set up a writers’ collective, and installed
a village health insurance system. They engage their proj­ects with com-
mitment and creativity—­and with the courage it takes to live locally and
subsist on food that is foreign to the palate, while also being exposed to
tropical fevers and dysentery. They come from a variety of backgrounds
(Anglo, Ca­rib­bean, Latin American, Asian, second-­generation African,
Charles Piot
Previous Page Next Page