Third World travel from the Western World can be a tricky and sensitive thing. You want the truth?
You WILL be asked for money from someone who is so sweet and
lovely that your heart just might literally break. If you give that person money, there is a possibility of about 98% that they will tell their neighbor and their neighbor will come to you asking for the same. And it will continue until you must say no, and now you have introduced jealousy and greed and hate into the community. You WILL be asked for your phone number and/or email address, and however lovely it may seem to keep in touch with such wonderful people….you will then be asked to help financially. You being there is special, so much so that how could the people in this third world community not take the opportunity to see if you would give them a leg up? You WILL fall in love with the children whose entire being signifies “innocence.”
Truth: A wonderful present to give back to the people of the 3rd world is a smile and conversation.
Truth: Taking a Polaroid camera for pictures to give back, is unlike anything I could compare. Most people have never had their picture taken and if they have they have not kept it. The look on this woman’s face viewing herself laughing frozen in a moment in time is irreplaceable in my memory.
Truth: There IS danger in the 3rd world. Government regulations, informal sectors, driving….anywhere, wild animals, poisonous insects, and of course parasites living in produce waiting to feast in my stomach.
Third World travel is not impossible. It is not something to avoid, but is something that deserves respect and awareness. These people should be met. They are inspirational. These communities are beautiful and insightful on how we all should live. However they do
NOT deserve to be treated like “human zoo’s.” This is a term I actually read in a blog about a travel writer who signed up for a tour into the slums of Manila (the Philippines). A tour of the mountain of garbage and people living off of this mountain. An actual tour. She stated that it was eye opening and unlike any experience she has ever had.
Let me just say it one more time: A tour group specifically designed to take people of the Western World to view those in poverty.
I have been fortunate to go to this same place. Her pictures hit me
hard thinking about my experience with the children and parents living off of that garbage and smelling that smell everyday. However, I went with a non-profit organization that was compiling success stories of people working themselves through poverty and out. We were there to congratulate a group of those people for working hard and to acknowledge their efforts. I am appalled that such a tour group exists benefiting off of others misfortune, and even more so that people are signing up for it. They are not an exhibit to view, to open YOUR eyes.
Please if you go to these incredible areas and meet these inspiring people (and you should), please treat them as PEOPLE. Enjoy your time there. Learn to say “thank you” in their tongue. But please stop staring. Please do not support these tour groups.
They are too good to be treated so poor.