If you want to be part of the solution, and not the problem, you want to start by unpacking the short term mission trip packing list. Let me suggest you consider leaving these three things at home:
Why? These are the three most common seeds of destruction for projects to help the poor.
If you bring money
Your wallet will help you to see the community and its problems through a financial lens. It will be hard for you to see otherwise.
As outsiders we ask, “How much to fix the problem? Only $50? … well I can do that!”and we pass out the bucks. This action, always with the best of intentions only reinforces the opinion that outside resources are the most important part of the project. Would you pay every time you and a friend meet for coffee at home? Not if you see yourself in an equal friendship. Paying for everything only reinforces an unequal relationship.
Leave your wallet behind.
When you pull out your camera
You highlight that you are the observer and others are the observed. You control the subject matter, the picture and the story that is told. The people on the other side of the camera … they are not in control of the picture.
They are the project.
Who needs to tell the story? What story are you telling of others? Don’t be a tourist, leave your camera for that more important instagram of your lunch
What might happen if you kept your solutions in your back pocket? When you unpack your short term mission trip packing list you leave room for others. If you leave your own solution at home, it might mean that you first look for someone else’s solution.
Every community has solutions. Great solutions.
The problem is that local solutions are are always invisible to outsiders at first. Start looking around, you will find them (it may take a couple of years – time well spent).
If you don’t own a solution then someone else does, and when you leave (and you always will) you won’t have to try and transfer your solution to someone else.
Leave your money, camera and solutions at home and come join a community as a friend not a benefactor.