Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Jakarta’s ‘Slum Tourism’ Sees Growing Interest


Jakarta, June 2102 - Recent years have seen “poverty tourism” mushroom globally, from the favelas of Brazil to the slums of Dharavi in Mumbai, popularized by the film “Slumdog Millionaire”.

“Jakarta Hidden Tours” trip, aims to show visitors the squalid conditions of the nation’s poor. “Tourists stay in their ghetto. We show what is really Jakarta,” said Ronny Poluan, 59, an Indonesian documentary maker who created the non-profit organization in 2008. “We have about 10 tours per month, with two to four tourists each time. More and more people are coming, some now even come just for my tour,” Poluan said.

A few hundred families cram into the slum in the Tanah Abang neighbourhood. Rohaizad Abu Bakar, 28, a bank employee from Singapore, said he could not believe his eyes as he wandered around the slum in the Indonesian capital, a jumble of hundreds of shacks, some less than a meter from a railway line. “I decided to experience the real Jakarta”.

Each tourist pays IDR500,000 to visit, with half of that going to the tour company, and the rest funding doctor visits, microfinance projects or community projects such as school building.

Ronny Poulan says he doesn’t give cash but pays the doctors directly. Organizers say it raises awareness and brings aid to the destitute of the city, but accusations of exploitation are never far away and critics say poverty should not be a tourist attraction.

Regardless of the critics of the tour, residents say they look forward to the daily influx of foreigners witnessing their lifestyles. The slum dwellers, like half of Indonesia, live on less than two dollars per day.

Caroline Bourget, a teacher from Jakarta’s French School said “If I had not seen it, I would not have done anything about it,” and stated she is now discussing setting up a mobile school in the slum to give disadvantaged children a better chance in life. “Here we are at the heart of reality,” she said.

Source: What's New Jakarta

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