Transformational Travel (Part 3)Beyond Borders

I want to tell you about Beyond Borders.

Beyond Borders, the mission organization Tony Campolo has been associated with in Haiti, recently came to a period of reckoning. They had done many building projects, and though they were not all disabling to local people, some of the projects may have indeed done more harm than good.

They prayerfully restructured their program and now call their short-term trips “transformational travel.” That’s where I got the title for these posts. The focus is not on buildings or a project but on constructing relationships with local people. For example, they pair a short-termer woman with a local woman in Haiti to learn from one another about what it means in their respective lands to be a godly woman.

Here’s more from their site:

Through the Transformational Travel program, Beyond Borders provides privileged people from the global north the rare opportunity to meet face to face with their neighbors of the global south.

Participants travel to Haiti, stay in the homes of poor Haitians, and learn more of their struggle to organize and build a better life for themselves. They interact, through translators, learning about their faith, their struggles and joys. They witness community organizations wrestling against great odds to make a better life for their people. They meet Haitians and expatriates who have spent years working for justice alongside the oppressed.

These encounters are almost always transformative for all involved, including the Haitian communities who receive the visitors. Participants from the north become more aware of the people on the other side of many of the choices they make and become more engaged in the effort to build a more just and equitable world. The Haitian hosts are affirmed for their courage and their struggle is validated. The sense that their voice is not only heard, but can make a difference in how their privileged visitors see the world, is a great encouragement.

Participants may engage in a small service project while in Haiti; but they perform their most important service through their effort to listen to and learn from their Haitian hosts. Along with interacting with their hosts, visiting groups are given time to question, reflect, and begin to re-examine old assumptions. Participants continue to serve after they return home in the response they make to their experience and in the life choices they make that promote local and global justice and peace.