Before going on my spring break service trip my group read two articles - "The White Tourist's Burden" and "Short Term Missions: Are they worth the cost?" - and listen to a podcast titled "Building Humane Societies." Each of these sources discusses short term service trips and whether or not they are successful in achieving their purpose. These trips have both pros and cons that need to be evaluated and those going on these trips need to be aware of their privileges and the situations that the people they are going to help are going through.
The articles' overarching theme is whether or not short term service trips are effective in regard to how money is spent and the work that is done. The thousands of dollars that result from many hours of fundraising can typically be better off spent if it were to be directly donated to the people they trips are in place to help. Such monetary donations would form jobs and support school funding for the locals.
When people travel to do short term service, they are usually there just long enough to get their project done. When they are there they do not take the time to meet the locals and/or teach them how to do what they are doing. This ends up being not as helpful in the long run and leaves the locals feeling worse about their situation. An example in one of the articles was that a group went on a short term trip abroad to build houses. However, the work that they were doing easily could have been done just as good by the locals if they were given proper training. This would also open up a lot of jobs for them which will, in turn, boost their living conditions and work life. The people on the trip also kept to themselves majority of the time and didn't converse with the locals to gain any understanding of their culture. Short term service trips such as this would be more successful if the participants were to take this time to connect with the locals.
In relation, the podcast focused on how low-income communities are being eliminated and people pushed out of their homes with increasing fees and property tax. These low-income areas are then turned into more affluent communities in which only the rich can afford to live. The new apartment complexes and housing being built are all standard and basic, too similar to one another. The people living in them are not creating a sense of community and the neighborhoods are not very neighborly. The main takeaway of this podcast is that we should not be building houses, we should be building homes - a place that is safe for people to learn, live, grow, and meet new people/form friendships.
These articles greatly changed my perspective of short term service trips and how truly successful they actually are in practice. This is something that I reflected on greatly before going on my short term service trip over spring and something that I will carry with me throughout the rest of my life. I believe it is important for anyone who is going to be a part of a short term service trip to be aware of this knowledge and approach interactions with the locals of the area they are traveling to in a more positive manner.