The “Relief Worker for a Day” Tour

Ealier today saw the quintessential, “Oh honey, let’s go hand out some goodies to the poor refugees so we can feel better about ourselves” group at the Buddhist temple where we’re currently building a toilet block.

A group of 4 or 5 very German looking people, in a 3,000 rupee per day rental van (we’re paying our head mason 800 rupees a day), handing out a few t-shirts to the kids from the families living in one of the temple halls. Oh, and they had their state-of-the-art digital video camera to film it all on too… of course.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for anyone and everyone to keep – or start – coming to Sri Lanka or any of the other affected countries as a tourist, thereby bringing more money into the economy and helping with the recovery that way. However, what I’m not into is those who feel a need to treat the groups of affected peoples as some sort of tourist attraction, where they come, hand out their $5 worth of local t-shirts or sweets, and then go back to their foriegn-owned $100+ hotel room and eat their $30 buffet lunch.

Don’t kid yourself people. If you want to come for a nice relaxing holiday then please do so, enjoy yourself to your heart’s content, and feel positive about the money you’re putting into the local economy. But if you really do want to help – rather than capture some good video footage of you appearing to help – no matter how small the money or time you have, then talk to those who are doing the work and ensure that your contribution can be put to good use and not wasted for the sake of a couple of Kodak moments.

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