[Sri Lanka Bloggers] What you're not supposed to say after visiting the Third World

Laura Tremaine, who traveled to Sri Lanka with World Vision in late August, reflects on her visit there -- and how it differed from her expectations.

This post originally appeared on Laura's blog, Hollywood Housewife.

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I didn’t come home from Sri Lanka broken-hearted.

I know I’m not supposed to say that. I know that I should tell you how hard it was to meet the poorest of the Sri Lankan nation, how my soul melted into a puddle at the sight of their anguish, and how I wanted to come home and sell all of my earthly possessions.

But that is not how I felt.

In the weeks leading up to my first visit to a Third World country, I tried as hard as I could to prepare my heart for what I would see. I prayed and I worried. I did not want to become broken under the palm trees, in front of the other bloggers, in front of my readers.

But everyone told me that I would, so I prepared in that way. I pictured visiting the sick and dying. I tried not to catch my breath when I thought of it.

And then we went to Sri Lanka.

Our first stop was at a parade, where the joy was palpable. The next few days were spent meeting people in great need. They needed resources and education. They needed clean water, a hug, and more food. They needed access to electricity and drivable roads.

What they did not need, it seemed, was an explanation of hope.

The people I met in Sri Lanka were smart and determined. They were fully aware of what the presence of World Vision could mean for their community, and they wanted to put in the work to make it happen.

Since World Vision works only with existing or community-started programs, the people already had an ownership and pride about the things being done there.

What youInstead of weeping, there were moments when I wanted to cheer. Instead of collapsing, I wanted to prop others up. The needs were great, but there was a plan in place for them to be met. Mala's eyes did not read of anguish; they read of a future.

I know my time in Sri Lanka was only the tiniest glimpse of Third World poverty. I know that there are parts of the world -- just down my street in Hollywood, in fact -- where there is deep despair. Where it feels like nothing can be done, so great are the "somethings" to be done.

But when I saw transformation through World Vision’s eyes, when I saw 15 years stretched out before the Sri Lankan people, I felt emboldened to contribute to this change. I felt like sustainable help had arrived -- and that my measly pledge would be a piece of the anchor.

So I just want you to know that it’s not one sad story after another after another. I want you to know that I fully expected to cry out for all who are hurting -- and I could, for every nation -- but instead was met with inspiration.

It didn’t feel like walking around with your head in your hands, saying "what to do, what to do."

It felt like this is what to do. So I did.

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I was honored to travel to Sri Lanka with World Vision last month. I learned a ton about world poverty, sustainable aid, and myself.

After many questions and much skepticism, I finally understood what child sponsorship means, and how it helps so much more than just a single person or family. Learn more about sponsoring a child in Sri Lanka!

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Sponsor a child in Sri Lanka

Comments

thanks this

Thanks for your recount. You views are refreshing and I believe that this comes as a result of empathy. Feeling what you witness with judging people or situations against your own experiences is a tough thing to do.
I live in Thailand and have visited India, been among the impoverished and thought this heartbreak would sweep me away. Indeed, I made connections out of involvement and compassion, not sympathy. I think this is the way to world peace, where we are just brothers and sisters of one another.

Dear Laura Tremain, was heartening to read your post. Yes, Sri Lanka is full of surprising potential. We have come a long way.

Having said that, I implore you to stop using the term 'Third World'. We are not third to anything. It only helps perpetuate the stereotype of these countries as hopeless and poor, despite all your wonderful attempts.

We are in fact, the Majority World, a more positive term that recognizes
not only the fact of numbers, but also the vast intellectual, social and
cultural assets that reside in the majority of the world’s population.

Thank you.
Jeevani Fernando

Thank you. Reading this has helped me stand firm in my choice to sponser and not cease to sponsor a child. I, like you (before your visit), feel hopeless and my eyes well up with tears at the thought of the millions living in poverty desiring only basic necessities (picking just one child was heart wrenching for me). I feel guilty too, for all that we have here. Thank you for the picture you painted in your blog and for the gift of your words that help me to understand in the slightest that it's bigger than what's in my mind's eye and it's positive!

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