Poverty Tourism is Bad. Idle Opinions Are Worse.

Photo Credit: Lauren Ebright | The Broken Telegraph

A discussion has erupted on the internet about the dangers of poverty tourism. The critics argue that we really only make ourselves feel better about America’s disproportionate privilege while glossing over the complex issues of global poverty by visiting struggling countries for a bit of brief outreach. All of this broader talk is happening as my wife Lauren, her boss Matthew and I prepare to travel to Cambodia next week for 10 days in an effort to offer some support in that country.

There is definitely something legitimate to the concerns that have been raised about poverty tourism, but I would argue that focusing on such concerns is far more damaging than any misguided altruism. Here’s why.

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Inside Cambodia PART II: A Population In Poverty

Poverty in Cambodia

Photo Credit: Lauren Ebright | The Broken Telegraph

by Guest Contributor Lauren Ebright

 In 2006 a community of people living in a suburb of Phnom Penh were uprooted by force and moved to a resettlement area now known as Andong. Over two years later, this village still does not have clean water, hospitals or electricity.  Through the connections we made in the country, we were given the opportunity to visit Andong and meet a man named Abraham who has taken this community on as his personal mission. Abraham has built the village’s only school and church from his family’s own money. He has also worked to build new homes for the people of Andong (their original houses, only three years old, have begun to fall apart). Matthew and I were excited to meet Abraham and to see a place more rural than Phnom Penh. I had heard that Andong was a “slum,” but I had imagined it would look similar to some parts of the city. I found out that Phnom Penh with all its poverty and chaos was modern and sophisticated by comparison.

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Inside Cambodia PART I: Life After Prostitution

by Guest Contributor Lauren Ebright

This past May I embarked on my first trip to Phnom Penh, Cambodia with my boss and friend Matthew Fairfax. Matthew owns James Alan Salon- the neighborhood salon I work at as a hairdresser in Shoreline, Washington. About eight months ago an idea was hatched. Matthew had a dream of starting the James Alan Salon Foundation to benefit our local area; he had no idea at the time how far the dream would reach. Through an amazing client of ours Matthew came to know of the desperate reality of human trafficking (primarily for the sex industry) in Cambodia. Separately, I had already began researching more ways I could get involved in combating the very same issue, coincidentally in the very same country. One beautiful day in October our minds came together and we set into motion what would become the Justice and Soul Project. Our goal is to create a hairdressing program for rescued women that are close to being ready to re-enter society after a life of sexual slavery. Slavery can come in many forms, the first is obvious; another form is born out of hopeless economic conditions. We want to give them a skill, a trade that can help support them in a country that is unwilling to. We had no idea what was ahead of us. We took a leap on May 12th and some fourteen hours later touched down in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

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