I would be remiss if I did not admit to feeling slightly overwhelmed by the obstacles ahead of me. The road taken to establish this non-profit has been full of self discovery and life-trials, but now on the ground there are a new set of challenges.
SE Asia is different this time around: following recent international news items on post 9/11 intelligence practices, and considering how brash young American tourists behave, it seems American’s now have a rather poor reputation in this region. Locals see the news but also the backpackers from the States and think disparagingly of us. They believe we are loud, drunk, inhumane and unsympathetic of their culture - which I can understand from their standpoint because I have witnessed how some of our tourists treat the world like their playground - but overall this troubles me because Americans are by-and-large one of the most generous and compassionate peoples I’ve met anywhere. Both the recent news and this particular backpacker contingent of tourism are not representative of America’s majority. We are a hardworking people with strong family values, we have a passion for fairness and freedom of speech, and as a nation we are a leader in philanthropic giving. (The United States and Myanmar are tied for the distinction of the most giving country, according to the 2014 World Giving Index, which looks at generous behavior. The scores, measured from 2009-2013 and released in November, looked at 135 countries).
Anyway, the upside is that it only takes a single human connection to change a person’s opinion. Each interaction I have with a local helps erase their visual of the young, drunk tourist/expat and establishes a fresh platform for the positive. Unfortunately those who are morally sound are not as noticeable, so it occurred to me that perhaps a little promotion could create a shift in world opinion? From the people I served with in the military, to the advocates in health and veterans rights, to the beneficent facilitators of humanitarianism, to the self-starters I’ve met here in the field, there are surely enough of us to reboot international perceptions.
Though I truly dislike the behavior of some of our tourists, and I don’t think they understand the lasting negative legacy they leave in their wake, each of us is the requisite fix. Each EE Envoy can u-turn these impressions and I look forward to welcoming such stalwart ambassadors who can heal the opinions of those we work with. This in turn will nurture local trust and enable a more effective mission. It takes authentic goodhearted Americans on the ground to rebuild our reputation as compassionate innovative people. It takes modesty and empathy to let them know we are human and that we genuinely care. These are the types of people I want to come join me. We can facilitate good feeling and lasting change within deserving disenfranchised communities. Are you that person?
Executive Director's Blog
Follow Macie through SE Asia as he embarks on a humanitarian adventure and assists inspirational individuals to improve their life quality.