On being a "poverty tourist"

Just in time for my trip to Bolivia with World Vision, there's some controversy about the supposed condescension of bloggers going to "dirt-poor regions to solemnly observe the impoverished in their natural habitats before returning home with an interesting infection and an exalted sense of enlightenment." Um, OK.

Speaking of condescension, isn't it ironic that the author uses a dehumanizing analogy to describe the poor; ie. as living in "natural habitats"? That's a descriptor we usually apply to animals, not humans. But I digress.

The point is, I'm a stupid, "quasi-journalistic" blogger.

Good thing I'm going with an established organization, otherwise I might be tempted to "poke paupers with sticks and asking people to wave their stumps for the cameras"!

Well, let me clarify: yes, I'm stupid. This is an easily verifiable fact, just ask my kids. I can hardly keep track of matching socks. I'm definitely bound to mess up on my trip to Bolivia.

Look, I don't pretend to be anything more than who I am: a simple mother of many children. With a past. With baggage. With my own mess. Who often has trouble keeping her own house from looking like an animal's "natural habitat."

But I'm doing what I can. And what I can do is write. I can share the stories. I can ask you, my readers, to consider sponsoring maybe just one child. That IS something we can do and even if it's a small thing, it's something.

I do what I can. You do what you can. And that's that.

But let's be clear: I'm not going to Bolivia to assuage some kind of white, Western guilt for my privileged life in suburban America.

I'm not going to Bolivia to gawk and stare, poke and prod, embellish and exaggerate the plight of the world's most vulnerable people.

I'm going to Bolivia because, well, writing about untold stories is something I can do. If even one child gets sponsored as a result, well, I've done my job.

And if that makes me a "poverty tourist," so be it.

Let the critics rage. Let the naysayers tsk-tsk. Let them call me names.

I'm going to Bolivia. I've got children to help.