About Pippa

Philippa (Pippa) Biddle is a New York-based writer currently fixated on the global volunteer economy domestically and abroad.

Her work has been published by The New York Times Online, Antillean Media Group, The FBomb, MTV, Elite Daily, Go Overseas, Matador Network, and a slew of other publications and websites. She has been featured in The New York TimesThe IndependentForbesand more. Pippa also writes content for television in partnership with Bridge the Gap TV. Shows she has worked on have aired on major networks including PBS and National Geographic. When not working on her own writing, Pippa helps small and emerging brands tell powerful stories. She is a graduate of Columbia University with a degree in Creative Writing.

Pippa is on the Board of Onwards, where she supports the organization in their efforts to create sustainable tourism-based solutions to poverty. From 2010 to 2011, she served as the Roots & Shoots Youth Leadership Fellow at the Jane Goodall Institute. She also helped to build BrightCo, a tech startup that joined GLG in the summer of 2014.

Pippa is featured in two documentary films, Volunteers Unleashed (2015, available on Amazon and iTunes) and FRAMED, slated for release in 2017. She was also featured in The New York Times columnist Ron Lieber’s 2015 bestselling book, The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money

Pippa owes a huge thank you to the many family members and friends who give her their two cents. Also to Alberto Vargas, whose photographic genius makes her look human.

To license articles for republication in any format, please email pippa@pippabiddle.com. 





36 Responses

  1. James
    James at · Reply

    I liked your article on “White Girls and Boys”. I was a “Volunteer Teacher” in Rajasthan, India, for 2 months. I taught kids between 7 and 14. I couldn’t help think how useless I was not knowing the local language, and arrogantly trying to teach the kids English. For me the major issue was not so much the colour of the skin (although this is a major issue in some cases), but it is income inequality. I currently live in South Africa, famous for its income inequality. The country is the most striking example of the blind arrogance that people pickup when they are brought up in a comfortable environment and are financially stable. They start to look down on those not so fortunate, as if they are inferior, and fail to understand the real reason is the lack of opportunity. I don’t consider myself very left-wing, in fact more towards the right because I have been given plenty of opportunities in my 26 years, but I would certainly say living in South Africa has pushed me more to the left of centre. The air of arrogance and superiority that exists among the wealthy South African community is beyond belief and angers me on a daily basis, and this is more evident because of income inequality. This sense of superiority and privilage, that you refer to is, I think, more down to income inequality rather than the colour of our skin, and more prevalent in developing countries where the inequality is greatest, rather than in developed countries.

    1. Antonio D'souza
      Antonio D'souza at · Reply

      Yes, totally!

    2. michkwu
      michkwu at · Reply

      The best way to fight income inequality is education. Just like you were doing in India. Even though you may have felt like you were useless, don’t underestimate the impact you had on those boys. Learning English is their way to a better future.


  2. Gareth
    Gareth at · Reply

    Pippa! Thank you so much for showing what a ridiculous situation we have with affluent white kids going out to the developing world to build things for them. It is patronising to suggest that local people (of whom there are many) are incapable of building their own structures, while completely untrained (white) kids can come out and do it better! Better to give them the money spent on your flight and see how much they would achieve by cutting out the middle man (i.e. us!).

    The other thing that grates on me when I interview candidates for med school is the number who have gone out the the “third world” and delivered babies, stitched up wounds and done all sorts of things like that.

    I ask why they didn’t just pop down to their local ER, or Ob Gyn and have a go at doing some bits and pieces. Invariably they look at me like I am stupid, but very few understand that the reason they can do these things in the developing world is purely because the patients are poor and black and they are rich and white.

    Brilliant blog!

    1. philippabiddle
      philippabiddle at · Reply

      Hi Gareth,

      Thanks for your comment. I do have to say that the clinic that our camp is connected too in the DR does accept medical students from the USA for multi-week programs. I’ve found that these student, when they come with the right attitude and are trained right, end up being an asset to the clinic while getting hands on experience that can be hard to find in the USA (partly due to fewer restrictions in the DR).


    2. Antonio D'souza
      Antonio D'souza at · Reply

      In countries where trained medical staff are in short supply, even a medical resident from an industrialized country can be very useful.

      1. Joost v S
        Joost v S at · Reply

        While I agree with Gareth’s reservations regarding med school candidates, even someone with basic knowledge of hygiene or nutrition can, with the right attitude, be tremendously beneficial in certain situations.

        If you find yourself living with a local population used to cutting umbilical cords with whatever sharp implement happens to be close at hand, or where a large number of pregnant women tend to be obviously malnourished (or far too young), or where infections are poorly treated or neglected, and so on, some fairly basic knowledge can make a significant difference.

  3. Gareth
    Gareth at · Reply

    Ah, I can see that would be a benefit to everyone. The cases I am talking about are guys who have no medical knowledge, because they have not entered med school.

    1. Antonio D'souza
      Antonio D'souza at · Reply

      Yes, those people are probably deluding themselves if they think they can be very helpful.

  4. Vincenté Kabo Baker
    Vincenté Kabo Baker at · Reply

    Hello Pippa
    This blog is as interesting as it is refreshing to read. I am from botswana and have been living in Vancouver Canada for the past 3.5 years. Ten years ago when I was mid my tertiary academic life I was adamant if not self-assured in changing the world through scientific research and entrepreneurship. So a part of me immensely appreciates your sentiments about thriving to be’ the change we seek to see in the world’. In my young-buck enthuseasm I had conjured a plan to take over the world one micro-scale venture at a time. I have to admit though, never did I – at the time-have your insight on foreign volunterism and its perceived and yet inadvertent influence on community development. So thank you for that. .It sure is food for thought. Dare I say inspiring.

    So, many years down the road, life with its curve balls and adventures, I find myself in one of the most expensive cities to live in the world and working in the most improbable-for me, given my background and earlier aspirations- occupations yet. Needless to say, the longing to contribute beyond the boundaries of my own life’s comfort and plesentries didn’t take long to dawn on me. It took months of internal scrutiny and soul judging 😉 before realizing that unless I had an audacious goal that still bore community building in some form or the other, I would not be entirely happy let alone content. So, here and now, I enjoy my work far much more knowing that it, together with the expertise I will acquire along the way, will be the bigger piece to my old yet never forgotten plan to effect real change. .even in the simplest of forms. .

    So, I say to you again, thank you for your spirit, may it never and (as the north Americans would say) remain the fire up our arses. .

    Cheers Pippa


  5. Bert
    Bert at · Reply

    Hi Pippa,

    Read your article “The Problem With Little White Girls (And Boys)” and I felt you were on point. I also work with NGOs active in the developing world and I have definitely observed the irony of using sheltered, well-educated, wealthy youth for manual labor. I also agree that meaningful change should be inspired by local actors, rather than outsiders. I’m a photographer and filmmaker and for the next month I’ll be documenting a reforestation project that aims to incentivize local populations to preserve the jungle where they traditionally practice shade-grown agriculture. Here’s their website: http://www.forestforaliving.org/. In my opinion, one of the most effective things that we can do as foreigners is to give people in our own countries the context to view the developing world with compassion and an understanding of the factors that create inequality, rather than with condescending pity. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, if you have a spare few moments.


  6. “The Problem With Little White Girls (and Boys)” | haba na haba

    […] That is from The Problem With Little White Girls (and Boys), a post by a super-smart, self-aware college dropout named Pippa Biddle. […]

  7. suzanne
    suzanne at · Reply

    I just read The Problem With Little White Girls (and Boys) (to which I mentally responded, “yes yes yes yes yes yes yes”) and I never would’ve guessed you were only 21. You have learned lessons it takes some people many, many years of working internationally and/or cross-culturally to learn. I’m happy to have been introduced to your blog!

  8. Christina
    Christina at · Reply

    You’re cool. That is all.

  9. The Problem With Little White Girls (and Boys) | FreedomTrapped

    […] Before you sign up for a volunteer trip anywhere in the world this summer, consider whether you possess the skill set necessary for that trip to be successful. If yes, awesome. If not, it might be a good idea to reconsider your trip. Sadly, taking part in international aid where you aren’t particularly helpful is not benign. It’s detrimental. It slows down positive growth and perpetuates the “white savior” complex that, for hundreds of years, has haunted both the countries we are trying to ‘save’ and our (more recently) own psyches. Be smart about traveling and strive to be informed and culturally aware. It’s only through an understanding of the problems communities are facing, and the continued development of skills within that community, that long-term solutions will be created.” Except From The Problem With Little White Girls (and Boys) by Pippa Biddle […]

  10. Daniel
    Daniel at · Reply

    I think your awesome.. its hard to meet girls with such ambition, integrity and goals in life. I really hope that you stay passionate about others and recognize the impact that we can have on others. Maybe someday I will even get to meet you in person on one of your “travels”! I hope so, take care and good luck!!!

  11. Russ
    Russ at · Reply

    Dear Pippa,

    First I must thank you for your honesty displayed in, “The Problem with Little White Girls (and Boys)” – but must disagree with a few points. Like you, my first mission trip was a week-long trip to Guatemala to help build a water tank for an orphanage. It was tough work, we were led by a local who instructed us what to do, and then got to spend the weekend in Antigua. Also like you, my lack of Spanish became apparent within hours of arriving in the country. In many ways, this trip was a full of voluntourists (I like that word by the way!).

    I agree with the point you made about local labor, but don’t agree that everyone has a white complex. Maybe it’s naivety, but I did not feel this way. In fact, our group gathered together after the experience to share how we felt – days after the trip, weeks, and months. Gradually that “I’m blessed / fortunate” feeling passed and we transitioned back to “first world life”, but the experience remained with us. To this day, I still recall the director of the program telling us not to expect to change anything while we’re there, other than our hearts.

    So what’s it all for then? If I’m not helping anyone, am I just paying money to make myself feel good? Important? Charitable? I think there’s more than meets the eye.

    I’m speaking of solidarity and breaking down cultural barriers – something not created by the money and the projects but by the interaction with people there. Maybe it’s only a single child or a whole community – but we are learning and growing with each other.

    I felt a calling to return to service and spent nine months in Barahona. Maybe you had the chance to visit it while working at Camp Alegria. During those nine months, I was one of a few white people in the whole town. The others were from Spain or Cuba – so language was not a problem. I struggled with the dialect and most people saw me as a gringo, rubio, or americano. However, I persisted and kept at it, trying to learn as much about the people as I could in my time. But the time I left, the little community of barrio Enriquillo no longer used those terms – but said that I had become a platano maduro. It was a great honor.

    In those nine months, did I make a difference? I can’t answer that. However, I can say that I laughed, cried, worked, and struggled with the community which welcomed me. If the problem is skin color – like you suggest – how are we ever able to fix it without interaction? Without solidarity and cooperative education, we will remain the same – or worse – deteriorate.

  12. darilyn barney merrill
    darilyn barney merrill at · Reply

    I want to help somehow in other countries and was going to sign up for a volunteer thing like you described in your article “the problem with little while girls (and boys).” I am a math teacher and want to go help someone, somewhere. What is your advice? I feel I am qualified to help school systems, teach teachers, etc.

    1. philippabiddle
      philippabiddle at · Reply

      Hi Darilyn – I recommend that you check out Pencils of Promise. But, as a disclaimer, I do not know their current need. More simply, look for local programs that need help.

  13. mrkusen
    mrkusen at · Reply

    THANK YOU for writing this!

  14. Frs
    Frs at · Reply

    Dear Pippa! As a brown immigrant kid who has spent the later half of his life in the “developed world”, I am absolutely blown away by your candid yet brilliant and rather truthful take on the phenomenon of Voluntourism. Thank you for your courage in calling a spade … a spade! The same phenomenon afflicts a lot of my fellow Australians. I have always wondered why a person who doesn’t even go to help out at a local soup kitchen would be so idealistically motivated to go for a few weeks to help save the poor folk in Africa (or India or South America etc). It is sad to see people going on voluntour excursions … merely to motivate themselves or gain a little direction in their own lives at the expense of other people’s misery. They don’t know how useful their wasted money could have been … if only they had donated the amount rather than their own selves!

  15. A
    A at · Reply

    Dear Pippa,

    Thank you so much for your article. Your words express something that I’ve always felt was off with the whole “voluntourism” business. Your line about how the local children need local role models to look up to, as opposed to outsiders, was something so poignant and something wonderful that I had never even though about before. You’re absolutely right. Children in these countries need readily accessible role models, as opposed to fleeting angels that come and go with the intention of “saving” them. And much much more important, seeing a role model, be it a teacher, or a doctor, or any type of leader within the community who looks like them and is something they can relate to is a very powerful motivator. It builds the idea that people like them can one day also be successful in that level.

    So, thank you so much. You put your points across wonderfully in a way that I never could. 🙂

  16. Mark Arnold
    Mark Arnold at · Reply

    Well said. Meaning well is good — doing the good that is needed is better. Thanks.

  17. Ray Berry
    Ray Berry at · Reply

    Hi Pippa,

    I’m currently writing a news feature for my Masters degree on the ‘white saviour’
    I think your post perfectly nails what I’m trying to say and I’d love to ask you a few more questions about it.

    It’d be amazing if you could get in touch.


    1. philippabiddle
      philippabiddle at · Reply

      Hi Ray, the best way to contact me is over Facebook.

      1. Ray Berry
        Ray Berry at · Reply

        Brilliant, thanks, will do.

  18. Mo
    Mo at · Reply

    Hey Pippa, I loved your entry about white volunteers abroad and am sharing it widely among friends and family. Just an FYI, the camp you write about was around for several years before you got to DR. I was in La Romana from 2006-2008 and was a camp organizer in 2007, when we spent a week in Jaraboca with 40 HIV+ children. Even then, it had been going on for years before I got there (just ask Noemi, she was a key organizer from the start). As part of exactly what you are talking about, the broken stream of foreigners coming through every few years leads to a discontinuity with past efforts and a sense of reinventing the wheel. While you may have helped establish a new name and better programming that could be offered to more children, you did not in fact found the camp, as you state in your biography. Even more evidence to support the value of your piece and the ways you’ve refocused your efforts on fundraising.

    1. philippabiddle
      philippabiddle at · Reply

      Hi Mo,
      Thanks for your feedback. The wording used in my bio has been approved by camp and clinic leaders as an accurate reflection of my role (along with many others) in shaping camp as it is currently. Also, Noemi is the best!

  19. Biddle
    Biddle at · Reply

    Great, valuable perspective. The historical context particularly resonates.
    You should team up with Jeff Sachs: if you want to help the developing world, deliver skills, resources, money… but not you, unless you actually know how to fix a motor, build a well, vaccinate.
    And hi from the Vermont Dukes.

    1. philippabiddle
      philippabiddle at · Reply

      HI!!!!! I hope you are doing well and having a good ski season 🙂

      Lots of Love,

  20. a
    a at · Reply

    predisposed. not trying to be rude, genuinely thought you should know.

  21. Maurice Levite
    Maurice Levite at · Reply

    I read ur article … I notice that you said in you’re article “After six years of working in and traveling through a number of different countries where white people are in the numerical minority, I’ve come to realize that there is one place being white is not only a hindrance, but negative — most of the developing world”…

    just wanted to point out ..white people are %9 of the world..so that means they are a numerical minority period…and yeah the “white savour” is kinda getting redundant,so the best suggestion would be to use that Boarding school education and petition the same western Governments who are destroying the world outside of Europe and America’s hemisphere.. and asked them to leave Africa alone period and stop instigating conflicts..also repay the nations back for all the stolen mineral wealth and for genocidal acts committed by the past European colonist..and therefore there would be no need for anyone to go and help the poor people of Africa( especially when they sit on the most fertile and mineral rich land on the planet ) Africans do not need the European the European(APPLE,EXXON,SHELL,De Bears) however needs the African…

  22. Katie Scott Aiton
    Katie Scott Aiton at · Reply

    Hey Pippa,

    Can you email me regarding writing and publishing opportunities at Matadornetwork.com. katie@matadornetwork.com

  23. a cat on the road
    a cat on the road at · Reply

    Hi Pippa,

    I’d like to ask you a question here. When you first started this blog, did you feel insecure about how people would react? I just set up my first blog(s) and published them on Facebook but the second I hit that button I thought that maybe I shouldn’t have.

    The fear of failure and people thinking that my writing is bad is quite a big issue for me and now I hesitate to publish more or to share them on social networks to make my blogs have more traffic.

    Can you give me any advice on this?

    Thank you very much!

  24. 20 Questions - Without A Measuring Cup
    20 Questions - Without A Measuring Cup at ·

    […] is on the guest list for your ideal dinner party? My friends & family, Daniel Houghten, Oprah, Pippa Biddle, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Barack and Michelle Obama, Ben Stein, Maya Angelo, Gwyneth Paltrow, […]

  25. monochromejunkie
    monochromejunkie at · Reply

    Nice to meet you, Pippa. :0) I’m glad I Googled “Dropping Out of College”- ha! I’ve been in (distance ed. all the way) for 4 years with a smidgeon of an academic break. I’m so tired…

    that said, I’m a singer/songwriter/musician/photographer/artist/ and children’s book author. School keeps me chained up and the artist is drowning. Every day, I drop out in my head. But I push on. Why? I’m not sure. I’m hoping that answer will find me. For now, I’ll keep pushing on. Thanks for that. x

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