Learning in Burkina Faso: a Cautionary Narrative of Development
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The focus of this study is to explore what I, a Canadian educator, can learn about development deriving from my relationship with five Burkinabé street youth and from participating in a development project. Furthermore, this thesis explores the following questions: What are the possibilities and challenges associated with Participatory Development according to my experiences during my project? What can be learned from my development experiences? How can my international “development” experience influence my practice in the Canadian classroom? Two conceptual frameworks have guided this thesis: Narrative Inquiry and Participatory Development. The latter was selected for two reasons; firstly, the non-profit development organization I represented and worked with in Kingston, Ontario strongly believe in working with partner organizations in a participatory fashion. Secondly, I was personally interested in exploring whether a participatory approach could be successful in eliminating the power relationships sometimes present in development work. The former was chosen because it offered the most flexibility in terms of writing design and supported the three levels of narrative: experience, telling, and interpreting (Polkinghorne, 1988). As such, this thesis is a self-study narrative that enabled me to present my story as a young teacher, volunteer and researcher. My research has been shaped by (1) my experiences, (2) stories of others, (3) my experiences with individuals who have impacted my journey, (4) my relationships with five Burkinabé street youth, and (5) finally my learning that took place before, during and after my three month volunteer project. ii My experience of volunteering in Burkina Faso has taught me that development is a complex field that should not be as easily accessible to those whom are inexperienced and unprepared to handle the challenges inherent in development work. My self-study cautions new researchers doing fieldwork abroad, volunteers and non-profit organizations of the possible negative effects such as harming the host community/culture, experiencing culture shock or reverse culture shock and practicing volunteer tourism while claiming to do development.