What Can We Do to Help?

To deepen students’ understanding of key themes in the film, ten supplementary readings have been included in the study guide. Readings are organized into four investigations that correspond to specific excerpts and themes in the film. Each investigation includes an overview that frames the readings. Readings are following by a series of connections that can be used to frame discussions and writing assignments.

Investigation Four focuses on the blog post “What Can We Do to Help?” As we follow Nicholas Kristof through eastern Congo, we are confronted with many of the problems endured by the women, children, and men living in the region. Leana Wen—a medical student who joined Kristof on this trip—wrote this blog post as a response to what she witnessed in central Africa. Her message can be applied to communities near and far.

Suggested Activities

One or more of these ideas, in addition to your own, can be used to create a lesson plan relevant to your students.

  1.  If students are not watching the whole film, you can introduce Reporter by having them watch the two-minute clip Introducing the Film.
  2.  In the two-minute clip Kristof’s Thesis, Kristof explains what he thinks can be done to fight poverty in central Africa. Based on what students see in this clip, they can think about how Kristof would answer the question “What can we do to help?” What problem is he trying to address? What does he do to address this problem?

Strategies that can help students comprehend and interpret this blog post include:


  1. Any of the connections that follow the article can be used as prompts for informal writing, such as journaling, or formal writing, such as persuasive papers.
  2. Leana Wen recommends that we “educate others” about issues we care about. You might have students write an article or blog about an issue they care about. Students can post their blogs on a class website and/or share articles with family, peers, friends, and community members via the Internet.


  1. In her blog post, Leana Wen urges readers to do three things: educate yourself, educate others, and take action. These are broad categories. To break down these actions into concrete steps, have the whole class or groups of students list specific things you could do under each category. Or, you might assign each group one of the categories and challenge them to come up with ten specific ways they can achieve the goal of educating yourself, educating others, or taking action. Students can then share their lists with the whole class.
  2. This reading contains many quotations that can be used to stimulate discussion. You could ask students to select a quotation that stands out to them or you can identify provocative quotations, including:
  • Doing something shouldn’t be about relieving your guilty conscience.
  • It’s not because of politicians that the U.S. is not doing enough to help Africa or to stop the war in the Congo. It’s because we have not, as a country, expressed interest in global issues. . . . Ultimately it is us who will propel our government to action.
  • Social activism is not limited just to the places “over there”; there are many opportunities to assist no matter where you are.
  • Maybe the biggest thing I would caution against is something that is very human, which is to seek out sources we agree with.
  • One thing I think today's teenagers are really good at is starting projects that make a difference abroad, instead of supporting some kind of symbolic protest that feels good but doesn't make a specific difference in people's lives.…[T]here are a lot of young people who are not put off by the vastness of the challenges, but are making these incremental differences in real places.

Two strategies that can be used to structure discussions about these quotations include big paper: building a silent conversation and gallery walk.

  • Some students may read this blog post and respond, “We are teenagers. We can’t even vote. How can we make a difference?” The barometer or SPAR teaching strategies can be used to discuss this question. One side can represent the idea that teenagers are not able to help solve problems that plague our communities (local, national, and/or global), while the other side can represent the argument that teenagers have the capacity to help address local, national, and/or global problems.
  • Any of the connections can be used to stimulate small- or large-group discussion. Some teachers allow students to choose the connections most interesting to them and then create discussion groups accordingly.

Researching and Taking Action

Ask students to follow Leana Wen’s advice: Learn about an issue you care about and then teach someone about it. As students do their research, remind them about Kristof’s advice to seek out intelligent views that challenge the things they hold dear. You might require students to gather information representing different viewpoints. Before beginning this activity, you might brainstorm a list of places where students can go to get information, and you might discuss the criteria they should use to decide if the information they find is credible.

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