Nixon, to be sure, is much more humble and flexible than are most Americans going to Africa determined to do good. For example, when a government official tells him to give up his dream of an orphanage because they are expensive and ineffective, Nixon is at first angry, but then sees the wisdom in adjusting. Donnelly contrasts this approach with Madonna's nonprofit, which insisted, despite the government's objections, on giving very large grants to organizations unaccustomed to handling such large funds, a practice that often led to conflict and chaos.
But Nixon also faces a lot of troubles, from a spurned chief who threatens one of his worker's families to a supervisor who abuses his authority. It turns out that running a small business in America is not sufficient preparation for running a large charitable organization in Malawi--though we should join Donnelly in giving Nixon props for his determination and flexibility.
Donnelly points out that problems inevitably occur when Americans start large projects in Africa before first understanding local cultures. We see in Africa an opportunity to do something big, and we get in a hurry to become a hero.
The original sin of so many Americans, Christian and otherwise, is that we want to make a name for ourselves in Africa, want to star in movies of our own making. So we often ignore or dismiss the fine work already being done by local people.
Yo Ghana! tries to avoid the pitfalls of western ignorance and individualism by: 1) Having a board of directors, a group of decision makers, that includes large numbers of Ghanaians; 2) Working with existing schools, with Ghanaians who have already been doing great things in their communities.
Africa can use the help of Americans such as David Nixon. But it already has plenty of heroes of its own.