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Springfield College Students Taught To “Give a Damn”

The “Give A Damn” documentary was presented to the campus on September 23 in the Union. (Photo courtesy Spiritual Life)
The “Give A Damn” documentary was presented to the campus on September 23 in the Union. (Photo courtesy Spiritual Life)

Julian Santiago
Staff Writer

“Why should I care about poor people in Africa?” This is the question that Dan Parris wanted his film to answer for those who watched it.

Parris decided it was time to make good on the promise he had made to return to Africa and make a movie about the poverty across the continent. The “Give a Damn Project” was a trip planned for three men, Parris, Rob Lehr and David Peterka to first hitchhike from St. Louis to New York City, and then to fly to London, hitchhike across Europe, fly into Kenya and finish with a journey across Africa, all while living on just  $1.25 per day.

Their journey went smoothly through Europe, or at least as smoothly as living on the world standard of poverty while hitchhiking through several countries could go.
Unfortunately, things took a tragic turn for the worse. Just three days into the African portion, Parris and Lehr took a private plane ride over Kibera, Kenya, a slum with over one million people living in it. Parris and Lehr were joined by the pilot and a mechanic on the flight.

The flight started off as a joy ride with great footage; it ended with a catastrophic accident that took two lives. Parris survived, but with severe injuries to his back and internal organs. Lehr survived as well, with a concussion and serious burns. The crew, unfortunately, did not survive. This event ended the trip for Parris and Lehr, but Peterka decided that, in their honor, he and his brother Tim would continue their trek through Africa.

By the end of the trip, the crew all had their answer as to why they should “give a damn.” The film shows how vastly different poverty is between America, Europe and Africa. The opportunities, even for the homeless in America, are far better than most could hope for in Africa; fresh water is available and diseases are not running rampant across the nation. Because of this fact, Parris argues that “poverty in Africa needs to be an issue for wealthy nations.” The biases that we carry about people in poverty and, perhaps more importantly, the obsession that we have with our own lives, often prevents us from taking real action to help solve the problem.

The people that the crew saw on the trip often astounded them with their outlooks on life. “I was amazed to see how content and functional these people are,” Lehr said in reference to the people of Kibera. “These individuals are born into a position they have almost no power to change.”

“At least people are not ignorant here,” said Katie Davis, a 21-year-old American living in Africa with 14 adopted daughters. Unfortunately, with all of the great work that these men and others have done, the problem is nowhere near solved.

“Getting rid of poverty has to start with us here in Africa,” said Grace, a woman the crew met in Africa.

Hopefully with the efforts of men such as Parris, enough people will take action.

“When people start seeing them as fellow human beings instead of as Africans, then they will start to give a damn,” said Peterka.

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