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 …
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 …
Justees is an income generation project located in a Phnom Penh slum. That’s a short hand description anyway. The kids at Justees have all been on the streets struggling with addiction to sniffing glue, but now they’re in the final phase of a recovery program that boasts a 99 percent success rate. Most started using glue due to the pain and hopelessness in the lives at home, and they worked hard to recover when those issues were addressed. The next step for them is vocational training and getting a foothold in life. Justees employs them, teaches them crucial skills, and pays enough to keep them in school. The project is run by Servants, a Christian organization from New Zealand, whose members are known for immersing themselves in the slums and working side-by-side with the poor. The two men who started Justees may seem irrelevant in the eyes of a world bent on power and real evidence of significance. One is a practicing medical doctor, yet every Monday he is side-by-side with the guys printing t-shirts. I’d love to develop this more — adding text and possibly documentary video, so I’m looking for opportunities to publish and …
I took a group of Japanese to a school in a very poor community. They visited each grade level, sang songs, then asked and answered questions. Each time they asked the kids, “What is your dream for the future?”
A first grader said he dreams of having a job, that’s it, followed by another who said he wants to be a motodop (a motorcycle taxi driver). Several others said they dream of having a factory job. What dreams? I thought. Working in a factory is a hard life: 12 hour days, six days a week, about 60 dollars a month (25 cents an hour). That wage is just enough to survive on, barely.
Some second graders also mentioned factory jobs, with a couple exceptions, one who wants to be a teacher and another who wants to be an engineer. The third and fourth graders gradually abandoned the factory theme in favor of more stereotypical dream jobs: doctor, lawyer, engineer…
I think the youngest children were repeating what they overhear their parents and older siblings hoping for–steady if brutal work they can get. The older kids have learned the list of obvious jobs that are supposed to make you rich and …
Change that comes quickly, or easily, doesn’t last. Authentic change takes time and a process, but it runs deep and follows through.
Seth Godin writes about three ways to motivate people to achieve: by pushing them relentlessly, by creating competition, and by giving them freedom and opportunity. The first two produce results, but only temporarily. As soon as you stop pushing, or when the competition ends, the motivation fades. The advantages of push and competition are speed and control; the disadvantages are felt down the road. Athletes who won championships don’t know how to motivate themselves apart from competition. I was a pretty good runner in my day, but I was never able to run consistently without a coach pushing me, and I ran for the thrill of racing and beating people. I’d love to be running today, but I still haven’t found it within me.
How will I work for change in society, or a better world? Whatever I want to change, it means people must change. But how?
Here in Cambodia, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of non-government organizations are working for change. There are hundreds of orphanages “saving”children, and many say they intend to raise up a new generation …