Friends of Orphans and Vulnerable Children

Friends of Orphans and Vulnerable Children
What could be better than an Ethiopian welcome, FOVC style?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Dave's Response to "Slumdog Tourism"

The "Slumdog Tourism" post yesterday has generated some good conversation, in a variety of forums. Love it!

Here's the response my Dave wrote: (By the way, I'm a feeler and he's a thinker...are you surprised?)

The point I wanted to make was that I hope that this won’t be the last trip to Ethiopia for any in our group. This is Lory's and my third trip, and I hope there will be many more. I wouldn’t mind someday relocating to Ethiopia if given the opportunity. The one point this article doesn’t make is the impact that we can have once we return home…and upon return visits. There is nothing that creates true empathy more than seeing the challenges and problems faced in Ethiopia firsthand. But, we can’t let that one visit languish. I view the roles of Team Tasfa members as gaining experience and observing the problems firsthand so that we can best understand what we can do with the resources we have to empower and enable places like Shanto and Korah to move toward becoming self-sustaining, viable, and livable communities…and to provide them with some of the resources and advantages that we have had from the blessing of having been born in America. I know that we can’t even begin to solve the problems outright, but we can be one small step in helping Desalegn and others achieve their goals for their communities.

I don’t know if any of you are familiar with “design thinking”, but it is a methodology used by innovators and designers to develop solutions to problems and challenges predicated on the necessity for firsthand observations. Design thinking methodology was used by my good friend and co-worker when he founded his company, Husk Power Systems, which provides portable power plant systems to rural communities in India driven by the use of “rice husks” or the waste product from rice harvesting. He traveled throughout rural India observing the challenges of not having power and developed a way to deliver electric power by observing how the rural poor lived their lives and the types of resources these people had access to on a daily basis. Understanding that rice was the main crop in rural India, he and a friend developed a way to take the waste product that was being thrown away and use it to generate power…now they have 150 employees and have deployed close to 50 systems which charge rural Indians $2.00 per month for power (where the average income is $3.00 per day).

The bottom line is that there is much we can learn about helping to solve problems in developing nations through observation. The key is taking what we observe and acting on it…not sitting idle after having had the experience (i.e., slumdog tourism). I sent this article out because I know that each one of us will be transformed by the experience and know this will most likely not be our members' only trip to Ethiopia…nor will we forget about all we observe...which will drive continued contemplation and hopefully action in helping to be a part of the solution to some of the challenges and problems we’ll see. It is also our responsibility to carry the message forward through the passion that will come from our firsthand observations and experience.

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