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I Don't Belong in Poor Communities

Since 2011, I have lived more or less full time in slum area communities. In India, some of my neighbors include leprosy infected beggars who earn about $.50c/day.

It's taken me now a little over 3 years to realize the fact I don't belong in such places.

I upset the natural equilibrium of things. It's the idea that you can sometimes do the wrong thing for the right reasons, and I'm not saying I've made matters worse in the places I've served or that I've done wrong.

It's just that I realize my ongoing presence is not fair to the native residents who, as much as I like to think it doesn't matter, come from a much different world than I. They see me with my — relatively speaking — vast amount of resources. Money. Laptop. Ability to summon help at a moment's notice.

Being the only white face, also, constantly creates a subtle kind of shock because it's highly unusual for somebody like me to hanging around. It's just not fair.

This is part of the reason I feel I need to retreat from such immersive field work. I still want to be a part of it, I just want to do so invisibly, with less interference, in a more hands off approach.

And I must sit with the question of why it is I feel so comfortable in such "foreign" environments and so uncomfortable in my native place.