Follow CAP on Social Media

Listen to the CAP Podcast

We Thought We Could Change Africa. We Couldn’t. But Africa Did Change Us.

The following story and video were written collectively by China House Student Fellows Liu Kexuan, 17, from Zhengzhou Number 7 Middle School, Fan Peifeng, 17, from Cape Henry Collegiate and Duan Yige, 17, from Zhengzhou Number 7 Middle School.

Together with a group of fellow high school students, we traveled to eastern Kenya this past July to learn about the anti-female genital mutilation (FGM). When we first embarked on this journey, we had a lot of misconceptions about Africa. Like most Chinese people, we didn’t know very much about Africa, Kenya or even the issues related to FGM that we were presumably going there to “help.”

It’s funny now to consider that we had started our trip to Kenya with the idea that we were going there as volunteers to help change Africa and improve peoples’ lives. Pretty soon after we got there, though, it became quickly apparent that as young high school students who did not know much about people and challenges in eastern Kenya, we weren’t going to help or change much at all.

But that doesn’t mean that nothing changed. In fact, a lot changed. It was just us, not them.

The opportunity to work directly with the community and amazing women like Joyce, who is helping to lead the fight against FGM in eastern Kenya, was inspiring and provoked us to re-think all of our preconceptions about Africa.

The most important lesson for us from this experience is that before anyone can truly help others, they must first listen and learn.

In the end, we didn’t change Africa but Africa changed us.

We hope that you will enjoy this short video that I produced together with the following students about our experience in Kenya learning about the anti-FGM movement there:

This trip is organized by China House, a social enterprise that brings young Chinese to the global south for researches, conservation activities and development projects.

  • Get a daily email packed with the latest China-Africa news and analysis.
  • Read exclusive insights on the key trends shaping China-Africa relations.
  • Connect with leading professionals on the China- Africa Experts Network.

You've reached your free monthly article limit.

Subscribe today for unlimited access.

What is The China-Africa Project?


The CAP is passionately independent, non-partisan and does not advocate for any country, company or culture.


A carefully curated selection of the day’s most important China-Africa stories. Updated 24 hours a day by human editors. No bots, no algorithms.


Diverse, often unconventional insights from scholars, analysts, journalist and a variety of stakeholders in the China-Africa discourse.


A unique professional network of China-Africa scholars, analysts, journalists and other practioners from around the world.