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 could imagine a large chunk of the aid industry drying up in the next 25 years without much of a loss, but I don’t think it will happen. There are too many vested interests, like governments who want to buy favor in emerging markets and people whose income and future careers are on the line. What I can realistically hope for in the next 25 years is that a new school of foreign aid will eclipse the old school. This new school will be characterized by dignity over dependence, freedom and choice over charity, and real empowerment over imagery and token words. I think an encouraging sign is the movement toward investing in social entrepreneurs. One key player is the Acumen Fund. They are not only doing this, they are raising up young leaders who can share and multiply the vision.
Check out this very worthwhile video of Seth Godin addressing an inaugural Student Leader’s Workshop:
Quote (5:41 mark):
Making change is addictive. Making positive change — doing things that matter to people — will change your life forever for the better.
Doesn’t this have a spiritual ring? It’s a gospel message: make a change, change your …
I’m a follower of Jesus shedding religion. When I think of being with the poor, or loving the poor, it’s over my head — meaning I need a lot of grace. Here’s a post on Geography of Grace entitled “With the Poor: Three Conversions” (the meaning of the word “conversion” is to change your way of thinking/direction).
I can identify with each of the three conversions: 1) becoming oriented toward the poor and discovering Christ with the poor, and 2) beginning to feel anger over the structures and systems that oppress the poor and 3) working side-by-side WITH the poor to change the spiritual and material conditions.
The third conversion begins with a crisis of disillusionment. We realize the poor are not going to cooperate with our ideals and grand ambitions to help. They do bad things, fail to make good choices, and settle for less than we hoped. The author calls the third conversion the movement into solidarity with the poor.We join with them — accepting the joys and sorrows, celebrations and failures that come with the territory.
Two weeks ago I visited Andong Village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Here is a brief story in pictures from that day. Keep in mind that you are only removed from these events by a few hours of travel. These lives and stories are ongoing, parallel to our own, in real time.
The well water in Andong Village is tainted with heavy metals. Long ago UNICEF provided large containers of water, but it was contaminated and people got sick. UNICEF left the barrels, and a private individual has been filling them with pond water and selling it. The water should be boiled, but fuel is expensive. Most village families have to take their chances.
Andong Village began in 2006. A slum in Phnom Penh (Sambok Chap) was emptied to make room for developers. More than 1000 families lost their homes and property (officially a much lower number). They were relocated to an empty field 24km outside the central city with no homes, no electricity, no sewage facilities of any kind, no drainage pipes to prevent flooding in the rainy season, no trash collection, no school, no hospital nearby, and the list could go on. Perhaps the worst part was …
In Muhammed Yunnus’ book, Banker to the Poor, he writes about their decisions to prioritize loans to poor women. He says the women were more likely to invest additional income for the long term benefit of the family and slowly raise the family’s standard of living. Men, however, were in general more likely to spend extra money on themselves. Obviously, it makes sense to empower responsible men; the point is that people on the ground amidst poverty recognize this practical value in empowering women.