Kristin Klein, a senior international development studies major and vice president of PLNU’s Microfinance Club, was recently selected to present her research at the Poverty Action Conference in Fredericksburg, Va., Oct. 5-6. She will present her work-in-progress senior honors project titled “The Land of AIDS, Bloated Bellies, and Natives: Factors that Lead Nonprofit Organizations to Misrepresent sub-Saharan Africa in their Media.”
Klein will work on this research all year for her honors project. Alongside a panel, she will examine to what degree U.S.-based nonprofits working in sub-Saharan Africa distort the region in their promotional materials and communications.
“To do this, I’ll be using a two-step process to analyze the website, primary brochure, and promotional video for a statistically significant sample of organizations,” said Klein.
This research is of particular personal interest to Klein, who has spent the past three summers in eastern Africa serving with several nonprofits: Into Abba’s Arms orphanage in Kenya, Hope Care Child Program in Uganda, and Village Schools International in Tanzania (she is now in the midst of applying to serve with Village Schools International for 15 months after she graduates).
“I’ve seen firsthand how good intentions aren’t always enough when trying to help poor people because a lot of different factors play into development,” said Klein. “I’m really passionate about finding sustainable ways to help poor people that empower those involved. I don’t think the continent of Africa needs to be saved – I’ve seen Africans doing great things to help themselves! … I think nonprofits are harming those they’re intending to help when they use images of starving children to raise funds. I think it’s time for nonprofits to be called to a higher standard.”
At the conference, Klein will have the opportunity to get expert feedback on her research early in the process. In fact, one of her role models, blogger Saundra Schimmelpfennig of “Good Intentions Aren’t Enough,” is assigned to critique Klein’s session.
In the future, Klein hopes to use her degree to “help poor people in sub-Saharan Africa,” but for now, she is absorbing knowledge and tangible understanding from both her education and experience as well as from professors like Drs. Rob Gailey and Jamie Gates.
“They’ve challenged me to look more critically at and learn more about development and ministry in sub-Saharan Africa, and they’ve served as great sources of encouragement in terms of my passion,” said Klein.
“To me, this conference embodies all that I’ve learned during my four years at PLNU. When I first arrived as a freshman, I had a heart for sub-Saharan Africa, but I had no idea what I could do practically with that. Now, here I am as a senior, and I’m getting to present my research proposal at a conference! I’m really thankful for the Center for International Development for funding my way to the conference. I’m certain I’m going to learn a lot and I’m excited to apply whatever I learn to my project throughout this year!”