“Children Are Not Tourist Attractions”

So, I know that I promised I was going to do my best to not talk about the negative things that are taking place in the tourism industry but this is one that I just cannot ignore. I am  taking a sustainable tourism course at my college, Metropolitan State University of Denver,  and on Tuesday we had a guest speaker that opened my eyes to this very issue of Orphanage Tourism.

So, what is it? The best way that I know how to put it into my own words is the exploitation of children in organized orphanages to gain a profit from tourism dollars. Some of these children may very well have families and are essentially taken by the orphanage to give them a “better life”. This thought of giving your child up may seem completely unrealistic but in many cases these families are already immensely struggling with providing their children with basic necessesties let alone guaranteed food, shelter and even education. Another major problem with orphanage tourism is the impacts it is creating on the children. In some cases many are abused, mistreated and not allowed to go to school/eat. Additionally, these children are being exposed to a new group of tourists every day/week/month. Not only is this creating severe attachment issues but is also creating abandonment, trauma, and instability in the childrens’ lives. Even more intensely, in some cases, this is creating a link to human trafficking. Many of these children do not have a lot of options when they become adults and typically are not highly educated. They also tend to have developmental and psychological issues. The combination of these things may lead to reliance on prostitution as a means to survive.

By visiting this type of orphanage, with the best intentions of helping the children and providing donations to the center, is the very thing that is fueling the demand for this industry to keep doing what it is doing. I genuinely urge you before you decide to volunteer or donate to a childrens shelter, DO YOUR RESEARCH! I have attached a link from Friends International that gives you list of questions when evaluating an institution. Here are a few:

1. Is the orphanage legally registered with the government

2. Does the orphanage have a child protection policy

3. Are visitors allowed to just drop in and have direct access to the children

4. Does the orphanage have an active family reunification program …

Before making the decision to volunteer your time or give up your hard earned money to such a beautiful cause of helping orphaned children please keep this issue in mind. Yes, there are very helpful and legitimate organizations in the world that do deserve your time and money. One by one, we can change the demand for this industry by consciously choosing not to support them. Remember, “Children Are Not Tourist Attractions”

Once again, sorry for the downer post. However, I feel that this is a major issue that needs a voice and needs to be shared and exposed. After reading this, next time you think about volunteering or traveling to volunteer you will do your research? Is this something that you believe can be stopped?

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http://www.thinkchildsafe.org/en/content/tip4/qna.html (link to research questions)

http://www.thinkchildsafe.org/thinkbeforevisiting/ (more info on orphanage tourism)

Is Brazil’s Middle Class Rising?

As I have begun my research and networking to learn more about Brazil before I go to work there this summer, I have been continually told “there is a large upper class and a very large low class and no middle class”. This spurred a thought. As we know Brazil has the 6th largest economy in the world and is growing rapdily so how can such a large economy have no middle class? (I also want to research and understand why this idea exsits… future blog post?)

This is not so much the truth anymore or is it? According to the recent article that I have linked, Brazil’s middle class now comprises 52% of the population. They base this off a monthly income of R$291 to R$1019 per month. However, based on the current exchange rate that is $148.33 to $519 american per month. And I have heard that it is also not so cheap to live there. So this leads me to wonder how fair and accurate their definition of middle class is and if it is better and what that means to the people?

One refeshing quote that I do take from this article reads, “It’s essential to have an environment that promotes the participation of the middle class in economic growth. For this to occur, we need productive, well-paid and low turnover jobs. We must also ensure equality in opportunities, openness to dialogue and appropriate conditions for health and safety”…. It is going to be extremely interesting to see how Brazil’s development unfolds (and I get to see it first hand this summer-will keep you posted!)

Thoughts? Have you experienced this in your travels to Brazil, what was it like?

http://www.brasil.gov.br/para/press/press-releases/november-1/brazilian-middle-class-reaches-52-of-total-population/br_model1?set_language=en

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Why not, next time you travel, “Pack For A Purpose”? 5 Tips to Pack Like A Sustainable Traveler

When traveling it can sometimes be easy to lose site of certain morals and values that you practice at home simply because you are in new surroundings and most likely on vacation. It is easy to travel with the feeling of less consequences and being careless, because we are feeling carefree. It is only human nature and after all, it is our moment to vacate our lives. But while still feeling carefree we must remember to respect the environments and cultures that we are so fortunate to be able to experience along our journeys. That way not only are we making positive contributions to the communities we are visiting but we are preserving the beauty for future generations to enjoy.

One way you can do this is next time you travel is, “Pack for A Purpose”. So there is an abundant list of things that you can do to be a sustainable traveler including things you can do before you leave, while you are there and even when you get back. One thing that I find very useful and simple is the way in which you choose to pack. Here are a few tips for you:

1. when packing toiletries, things like shampoo, toothpaste, etc. use green products. In many countries there is not a developed sewage system and these things going down the drain can wreck havoc and their water supply.

2. When also packing toiletries and other packaged items, eliminate the packaging. This allows you to recycle the packaging while still at home and not adding to the waste in the country you are traveling to and it saves space in your pack! Also, many countries may not have recycling programs for these items.

3. If you are traveling to a country where it is not okay to drink the water consider investing in a water filter for your water bottle or even iodine tablets. REI and other outdoor retailers have many options when it comes to water filtration systems. This way you are reducing your plastic bottle waste and you are also saving money along the way.

4. If you are traveling somewhere and you might be staying with a host family or people in the local community consider bringing small gifts such to show appreciation for their hospitality. You may also want to bring them things that represent where you come from. This is a beautiful way to create cultural exchange and to show them a place they may never get to travel too. For example, I stayed with a host family while I was in Islas Amantani (a small island in Lake Titicaca) I brought the family a small picture book of Colorado. Of course in doing this you want to remain respectful of their needs and do your best to not portray yourself as being “better” in any kind of way.

5. Lastly, I wanted to share a really awesome way that you can “Pack for A Purpose”, hence the title of this post. There is a company, Pack For A Purpose (http://packforapurpose.org/), that proposes when you pack use the extra space in your bag to bring much needed supplies for the communities that you are traveling to. Their branding says “Small Space. Little Effort. Big Impact.” Simply put, this is a very easy way to create huge impacts in peoples lives by not doing a whole lot on your part. On their website you can pick your destination and they will have a list of partners that they work with that have developed lists of supplies that these communities are in need of, pretty awesome work!

So next time you grab your pack to head out on another journey I challenge you to “Pack For A Purpose”!