Friday, July 23, 2004

Hatian Village in Georgia?

Today, I stumbled across a recent AJC article  (sorry, you have to log in--I included excerpts below) about a  Hatian village in Clayton, Georgia.

Apparently, at a camp run by the General Presbytery of Atlanta, they have set up a Global Village, where groups can pay for a chance to experience life in a Third World country. It's faux-poverty smack in the middle of rich America--  $140,000 houses are being built just across the road from the village-- and participants can hear the sounds of contractors with electric nail guns while they make bricks with their hands . I imagine that's a striking juxtaposition for many.

 Originally organized as a way to train church groups for short term mission trips, the participants eat, sleep, and work in an area that resembles some of the poorest places on earth. Overall, I'm not sure what to think about this concept. It's educational, definitely, and provides a great opportunity for kids (and adults) to see the way the rest of the world lives. It just seems to me that the money be better spent by actually sending it to the people who live in those impoverished places, rather than re-creating their poverty in the middle of suburbanite Georiga and charging people to visit. But that's just me.

What do y'all think?

Here are some excerpts from the AJC article:

Clayton camp's Haitian Village lets visitors experience life at subsistence level

By KevinDuffy. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Published on: 07/18/04

Visitors to the Global Village at the Calvin Center experience what it's like to live without electricity or running water, to sleep in a cramped bunkhouse on a thin mattress under a mosquito net, to make bricks and then use them in the slow process of building a simple dwelling.

A brick house being built at the Haitian village is the size of a closet in most Atlanta homes.
When finished, it will be 8 feet by 8 feet and less than 7 feet tall — its actual size in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with a per capita income of about $400, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development. Whoever chooses to stay in the house will sleep on a straw mat on the scraped earth.

The village's other six buildings — two bunkhouses, a latrine, a shower, a kitchen and the brick-making shelter — are equally humble. The kitchen is simply a brick latticework building with a countertop holding two grates, below which wood and coal are burned. The small shower building is topped by a 55-gallon drum, which has to be replenished every day with hand-carried buckets of water. Users open a faucet to get wet, usually in the evening because the water is heated by the sun.

The first building in the Global Village went up three years ago. The Haitian section is mostly complete. Still to come are Kenyan and Nicaraguan villages, a typical shantytown and a Palestinian house, which is partially built. The bulk of the work will be done by visitors to the village so they can experience what it's like to build your own dwelling.

"This opens their eyes that the majority of the world doesn't live our lifestyle," said Hein Vingerling, [a native of Holland and a former business executive who runs the Global Village]. He frequently visits Haiti on his own and now helps run feeding centers and an orphanage there.
During his trips, Vingerling noticed that travelers working for church missions often clung to their habits, sometimes offending their Haitian hosts. "I've seen people literally freak out from the lack of proper sanitation," Vingerling said. He figured there was a need for a mock Third World to prepare travelers for the real thing.

Several hundred people, primarily from church groups in the Southeast, visit the village each year, paying about $50 per person per night to briefly experience the hardships billions of people deal with every day.


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