Sunrise Cambodia

Sunrise Cambodia: It’s Not Poverty Porn, It’s Charity

I hate the phrase Poverty Porn. Coming from a journalist who has every opportunity afforded to those of us that win the global lottery to be born and educated in Australia, it is insulting on so many levels. It’s dismissive of those that live it and lack such opportunity.

This week, just days after running an interview with Sunrise Cambodia founder Geraldine Ford, the Sydney Morning Herald and other media outlets have run a story criticising the use of a child in a the charity’s new advertising campaign. Journalists have decried the use of such ‘poverty porn’ defining it as:

‘…practices where charities use hard-hitting images, such as malnourished children, to draw empathy and donations.’

The child is seen in one of the print ads with the caption ‘Teach a sex worker to sew.’ Critics claim the use of the child is undignified, particularly since the model used in a local village girl, and not a sex worker. When I saw the story, I did a double take. ‘Is this really news’ I asked myself? A charity trying to raise funds to get children in a third world country educated used a local girl as their model for a marketing campaign. Is this really so different from Kemma, from a similar World Vision campaign, who is afraid of getting married at the age of 8? Is it different from using an Australian child to represent a similar image of domestic violence or sexual abuse? Is this what constitutes hard hitting reporting now?

That there are underage girls being forced into sex slavery in countries with low access to education – that is news. That there is a way that we can contribute to making the world work a little bit better – that is news. That there are people that dedicate their lives to offering opportunities to those that may not otherwise receive them – that is news. Great news, in fact. What is not news is that charities use models for their fundraising campaigns, or that people need to be prompted to contribute. As CEO Lucy Perry said, “…people won’t donate if you show a picture of a seamstress looking happy.”

I don’t know what is worse; that bad news sells, that we accept this level of reporting as newsworthy, that journalists need to print click bait headlines, or that media outlets are lazy enough not to show leadership in reporting real news.

Journalists are facing a squeeze, its true. More and more redundancies are occurring, more journos see their jobs in danger. Online news is making it tough for traditional news outlets. They have a business to run and the current climate is unsupportive of that. As a result, editors want click bait headlines and journalists feel compelled to write them. And we click on the links. As readers, we can’t solve the supply issue, but we can change the way we demand our news. We can change the equation.

Don’t click.

Send the message that we are intelligent enough not to fall for flimsily written articles which cherry pick unsubstantial new stories and sensationalise misinterpreted details. Treat each click like its worth more than a piece of bait. Make news outlets earn your click with better quality stories.

So, readers, YOU have a choice. You can click on the link here; its a salacious story pertaining to whispers of inappropriate use of children in an overseas charity advertising campaign. OR, you can click on this link here; it’s an article about the life changing work being done in Cambodia written by Sunrise Cambodia’s new CEO – proven NGO fundraiser and rule breaking personality Lucy Perry. You might even learn how you can help do something that makes the world a little better. You decide.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Sunrise Cambodia: It’s Not Poverty Porn, It’s Charity

  1. Sorry, you have missed the main point. The issue is not about journalists or charity-workers. It is about what is in the best interests of children, especially vulnerable children in Cambodia. If children are asked; just as if many adults in poor communities were asked – the aid and development industry has a habit of not doing this – you will find that they are quite capable of coming up with what they see as their problems and appropriate solutions. External experts seldom know best but their money can lead to all kinds of ills. Do you think that there are not enough Cambodians who know how to bring up all their children? (Or are there just too many white saviours!) http://anorthumbrianabroad.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/foreign-aid-upside-down-inside-out-and_1.html

  2. Mrs. Lucy Perry,

    You are making a mistake. This is not about you. The discussion regarding the ethical use of sensational and demeaning images and stories in NGO fundraising campaigns is an honest, on-going and important discussion within the NGO and charity communities. The Sydney Morning Herald article about “poverty porn” and the questionable fundraising campaign at Sunrise Orphanage was good. You might not agree with the article. I don’t agree with everything it said. But that is not because you alone are right, and everybody that disagrees with you is a hack or a bad person or misinformed like you keep saying. If you understood the issues you would know this and have reasonable responses ready for the criticisms. You should already understand that and thought about these issues before you designed that campaign. If you did understand the issues, you would not be attacking people and calling them hacks and uniformed or trying to imply that they disagree with you because they are bad or stupid people. I also think you underestimate the Australian people. You don’t have to treat them like sheep to get them to understand. I think you have a lot to learn about ethical behavior for NGOs, especially NGOs that work with children. You have disappointed me and are shaking my faith in Sunrise Orphanage in Cambodia. Not the Sydney Morning Herald article, but you are shaking my faith. Please consider your course of action before Sunrise collapses under the weight of your ego.

    M

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