poverty-tourism Recently a very well-known Mommy Blogger traveled to Bangladesh with a non-profit organization dedicated to child and maternal health.

Immediately following her first post from the developing country, the UK news publication The Guardian ran an article labeling her trip another example of “poverty tourism” in which “westerners [are] flown to dirt-poor regions to solemnly observe the impoverished in their natural habitats.”

The article noted that what often happens with blogging trips is that the bloggers write lengthy, gut-wrenching, emotion-filled posts that motivate readers to act, but then offer little tangible way to take action other than simply signing a petition.

“Where blogger-engagement projects often fall down is in closing the deal: having aroused the empathy of an engaged audience, they fail to provide something potent for people to do next.

“If you’ve just read a post about children working 14 hours a day scavenging material from towering heaps of putrefied waste, you probably want to do something more effective than signing a petition or sending an email to your elected representative; but frequently, this is all that’s on offer.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. I doubt there’s much that’s more frustrating than getting your emotions all stirred up, only to be left helpless with no way to do anything about what you’ve just learned.

You should know that at Compassion we don’t want you to feel helpless — we’d rather you feel empowered. We don’t want you to feel discouraged, but encouraged that you are able to make a difference. And not just a small one. That’s why we focus on offering you so many different ways to get involved.

As our President and CEO, Wess Stafford, often says, there are two main reasons why people do not take action:

  1. They don’t know what to do.
  2. They don’t know whom to trust.

We want to be the answer to both of those questions.

One way we do this is to offer trips to see our work around the world. Our sponsor tours, vision trips and blogging trips, however, are all carefully and strategically designed to empower participants, not incapacitate them.

For the record, we refuse to engage in anything even remotely resembling poverty tourism. While other organizations may ask you to simply sign a petition, we want more from you … much more. We want your passion. We want your heart. We want your deep, God-given desire to change the world. And we promise not to leave you helpless.

We’ve found that one of Satan’s favorite tactics is to make you feel impotent. To get you to believe that no matter what you do, it won’t make a difference.

It’s our goal to eradicate that feeling. How are we doing?

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  1. Mark Clinton
    Jul 15, 2011
    at 5:55 am

    Knowing and seeing the condition of others is the first step in taking action. Don’t let others steal this invaluable first step.

  2. Nathan Cary
    Jul 15, 2011
    at 7:15 am

    For us, it started out by sponsoring just one child. Soon after, we did a sponsor tour. We were introduced to a cross section of that society.
    By plugging into that culture, we were becoming engaged in a world much larger than ourselves.
    We watched as Haiti had the big earthquake. While Haiti was in chaos, we asked ourselves, what can we do? So while we couldn’t plug into Haiti at that time, we could plug into other regions. We found huge needs in Uganda. My wife started a sponsorship of one child. Then we paid more attention to events in and about Uganda. Soon after, we were sponsoring one more child in Uganda, and then another, and yesterday, the fourth child.
    Tours? Yes! There is a sponsor tour scheduled to Uganda this coming November, and we are planning to be a part of it. We love “our” children, and want to meet them in person and hug each one.
    My only apprehension is that the Ugandans might feel that they are on parade while we watch them live their lives. Hopefully, our love for them will be enough to remove that possibility.

  3. Kathryn
    Jul 15, 2011
    at 9:02 am

    Wow, who ever wrote that article in the UK hasn’t followed Compassion’s bloggers. We do feel empowered through Compassion and now have 14 children we sponsor! Way to go Wess, Compassion and most importantly our awesome Jesus who gets all the praise and glory!

  4. Katie
    Jul 15, 2011
    at 10:21 am

    I just realized that that’s the reason I love CI–it empowers me to make a difference. I feel like I was always told the horrible truths of poverty and felt unable to help. With CI I can make a tanible difference–I see it when I read my letters from Jerlyn, Erick, Fernanda, Sadhin, Choku, and Marlon.

    • Jul 15, 2011
      at 2:12 pm

      Katie, that is wonderful to hear!

  5. Jul 15, 2011
    at 10:23 am

    You guys are doing a phenomenal job of convincing me that I can make a difference. Thank you!

  6. Retha Johnson
    Jul 15, 2011
    at 10:19 pm

    English writer/clergyman Sydney Smith (1771-1845) had a wonderful quote which I remind myself of daily. ‘It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little. Do what you can.’ Worldwide, if those of us who can would do for those who can’t, there would be no need.

  7. Mike Stephens
    Jul 16, 2011
    at 3:44 pm

    I had a close friend say, it took all the effort/self-control/strength for this person who had been treated so badly his whole life not to kick this cat as it walked by, and GOD SEES THAT!

    I greatly appreciate Compassion being the “worm-hole” to help me get where I need to get in visiting the kids I sponsor.

    I think at the end of the day I like Compassion so much b/c it’s proclaiming the TRUTH: Jesus and the Bible. Also Compassion makes the impossible possible. For me the impossible is sponsoring kids and telling them I am going to visit and then visiting! Thank God that worked out! I like how it stretches my faith and VAPORIZES other peoples’ doubts and criticizing comments and unbelieving expressions and just everyday living waiting to get put 6ft under.

    I was on a home visit on my last Compassion trip and we had done a few and I was getting kind of bored, I was like “I need to get a little more excitement going here. So I abrubtly starting talking and asked if the father was ever a fisherman which he did at times. Then they also said he collected the coconuts out of the tree as well when work was slow. So I said I would like to climb a coconut tree. The sponsored boys’ mother was all for it, which helped egg me on even more. So I climbed about 30-40ft up a 50 ft. or so coconut tree and couldn’t get quite to the top as some of the slices in the tree were a little wrotten and I needed a little more inspiration at the time. Then we came back into the house and the mom started laughing and asked me if I wanted to go fishing, and I said yes. But that may have to wait for another time ;)

    I guess I see it like this: if you stick your neck out you may get the guillotine or if you try to do something great you may get hit by a Mack truck but getting hit by a Mack truck is quite an adventure in itself! hahahahha!

    But to answer the question: “How are we [Compassion] doing?” I don’t really see it as Compassion’s responsibility to do anything, I see it as mine although discounted advocate trips helps make me not look like a liar when I tell my kids in many letters that I will be visiting. So you are doing great in my eyes b/c of the discounted advocate trips! ;)

    I Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

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