Notes By The Way

Why Not A Family? Video online

The video I’ve been working on for the past year is online. The title is “Why Not A Family?” and the purpose is to raise awareness of better alternatives for the care of orphaned and vulnerable children. You can watch it here. The video challenges the idea that orphanages are really the best long term option for the most vulnerable children, and it suggests a better way.

 What would motivate someone to make a video questioning orphanages? Please watch it and see for yourself.

More and more you the conversation about orphanages is turning around the point that 80 percent of children in residential care worldwide have one or more living parents, and the vast majority have other living relatives who could potentially care for them. The main reason that parents and relatives give for putting their children in orphanages is poverty. The problem is that putting a child in an orphanage is often easier than getting practical support from either the government or any other source to keep the family together. It’s time to make a concerted effort to change that.

Would you like to learn more? Go to www.unitingforchildren.org and spend some time reading the articles by experienced …

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Poverty tourism versus positive, educational travel across cultural and economic divides

Written by on July 6, 2012 in Learning and Volunteering, Notes By The Way with 7 Comments

I appreciate this graphic via Staying For Tea, but it’s important to understand the context. The original intent was to show that a variety of programs and activities get lumped together, fairly or unfairly, under the negative label of poverty tourism.

Now poverty tourism is a horrible term, and I want nothing to do with it. “Poverty” as a destination is reductive and degrading of people, as if people in poverty, or who happen to own homes in slums, were all the same–or poor in every aspect of their lives. “Tourism” implies a consumer experience that can be bought and sold. “Poverty tourism” suggests we can turn the plight of people in need into an experience travelers can (comfortably and passively) purchase.  In practice, poverty tourism often means groups of people who consider themselves wealthy and enlightened traipsing through communities they consider poor and taking pictures of everything in sight.

ALL of the activities above, even when they’re sincerely enacted, may include poverty tourism in its worst forms, but they don’t all have to turn out that way.  I think some of the activities could be moved to a new chart under a new umbrella, such as: Opportunities for

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My friend has died of AIDS

Andrew Sullivan posted last week about How to Survive a Plague, a documentary about the AIDS epidemic in America. Then a follow-up post with reader comments caught my attention. They were reflecting on a terrible crisis that’s largely passed. One person wrote about his daily dose of Complera: “One pill. Every morning. Forever. And I’ll be fine.”

How wonderful for him.

I typed this response:

My friend died of AIDS on April 25 this year. Unlike your reader, he wasn’t taking Complera but a combination of outdated drugs every morning and evening. The drugs themselves were attacking his organs over time. He was only nine. He’s survived by his older sister and many friends who are also living with HIV.

The long term survival of all my young friends living with HIV is very much in question today, because they are poor. A decade ago life saving ARV’s were finally produced for the poor, and today they are still taking the same drugs. There are only two levels of treatment available for them. I hate to think what will happen when the kids on second level treatment start failing, and the time will come. They are dying because their

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Under the brooding tree

Past the pond and brooding tree

cross the sand and clay muck

where oxen wander

boys hide

in brush caverns

and gather sticks

from a paddy, baked

lash bundled heaps and enter

water brown as skin

cool as coffee

on a long morning

and float under a brooding tree

and Cambodian sun

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Sebastiao Salgado shoots digital, keeps it real

Written by on March 3, 2012 in Notes By The Way with 1 Comment

I just found out that Sebastiao Salgado shoots digital.

Salgado captures life in photographs without succumbing to nihilism and expressionism. He is subjective, as any artist must be, but each of his subjects and places have an authentic breath and voice. They aren’t co-opted merely to serve an agenda, although his work has a strong point of view. I don’t want to compare myself with Salgado, but he encourages me to take photographs that communicate truth in life, and not to worry so much about being fashionable.

The fact that he has moved from film to digital, despite reservations, proves again that photography is not about equipment, and the best documentary photography doesn’t have to be done on a Leica (he currently uses a Canon and converts the best images to film negatives before printing).

I would love to sit down for coffee together and learn more about what he sees in pictures. We have lots of good coffee shops here in Phnom Penh…

Shadow Puppets: Last night behind the screen at Sovannna Phum

 

 

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Walking with the Poor, by Bryant Myers

Written by on September 24, 2011 in Helping Without Hurting, Notes By The Way with 1 Comment

I suspect Cambodia would be better off if most of the foreign organizations and people doing development and compassion work left.  Of course, everyone would think they are among the few that should remain.

I’m reading a new book, Walking With the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development, by Bryant Myers (1999).  I hope it will help answer some questions that I have.

How can I walk alongside the poor in a way that lifts them up, rather than lifting up myself? How can I lead in a way that doesn’t seek control but respects the ability and freedom of the poor to make their own choices for change?  What can I do to support genuine, lasting transformation in individuals, communities, and society?

Who is this for?

In the Foreword, Paul Hiebert says Walking with the Poor is “a masterpiece of integration and application in thinking about Christian ministry.”

Christians have a mixed reputation in development. Frankly, so do non-Christians. Human beings helping others, despite our best intentions, have similar habits of playing god and under-appreciating the abilities of the poor to help themselves, even as we talk about mutual respect and empowerment.

The book is for people …

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