Poverty tourism (Christian Science Monitor) & short term missions?

I’ve written about a similar topic before in relation to short-term missions (missionary tourism and the poor). Here is an article that I think anyone planning short-term missions might want to read.

Jina Moore (Christian Science Monitor) – June 29, 2009: Does peeking at how the other five-sixths live preserve culture—or comodify it?

. . . From the favelas of Rio de Janeiro to the townships of Cape Town, well-to-do Western tourists are plunking down serious dollars to see how the other five-sixths live. Like all tourism, this experiential off-roading can be a mixed bag for the local people, damaging the environment and threatening the authenticity of culture.

The bad kind has earned a seedy-sounding nickname – “poorism” – that means to suggest what experts say can be little more than a voyeuristic excursion to see just how poor the poor really are.

But there’s a more compassionate kind of poverty tourism, known by a spectrum of labels, that delivers more money to the countries tourists visit and puts more of their cash in impoverished locals’ pockets. The best of these programs take foreigners into local communities and expose them to authentic, indigenous ways of life, while taking heed of the cultural and environmental costs of tourism. . .

. . . “Often, rich Western tourists are interested to see people who have a strong cultural and social ethic – which they often don’t have themselves,” he says. “One thing that’s clear is … that the economic poor are often culturally rich.”. .  [or faith]

[Keep reading]

Thanks for the tip: Scarlett Lion who writes: “The debate about “poverty tourism” rages on the blogosphere on the pages of the HuffPo, Bill Eastery’s blog, and elsewhere. But, as Jina Moore (previous Context Africa feature), who wrote a great, nuanced piece about this for Christian Science Monitor, says,

If it’s that easy to be flip, you’re probably missing something.

Gordon then features the work of photographer Samantha Reinders, who is currently based in Cape Town, South Africa. Her take on Township Tourism shows that nothing is as straightforward as it might seem and even something as divisive as “poverty tourism” can be looked at with nuance. [Great interview and photos as part of the Context Africa series!!]

Township Tourism, especially when it just became popular in the mid 90s, got really bad press in South Africa. And admittedly I was swept up in that. I thought the concept was horrible. A Brazilian friend in town was determined to do one of these tours and I went along with him and had a surprisingly good experience. So I decided to do a story on it and investigate the industry in a little more depth. As time went on I changed my mind about Township Tourism. Whilst there are definitely negative impacts on the communities involved when tours are run badly and mismanaged, I saw the positive impacts out way these in many cases. I left the project with a more 50/50 view of the industry. . .

See previous Context Africa posts:

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