Catalyst for change or empty exchange? : evaluating the impact of short term home-stays in Manila squatter communities on participating New Zealanders : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University
This study is a qualitative evaluation of a scheme called Discovery Teams, offered by the Christian agency Servants to Asia's Urban Poor. It examines the experiences of twenty-two New Zealanders who have spent between one and four weeks staying as guests in the home of Filipino squatter families, and evaluates the various ways this experience has generated ongoing changes in their lives. The study concludes that participating in a discovery team has acted as a catalyst for change in most team members' lives. This is especially true for those who have already begun to ask questions about poverty and suffering - and their own response to these issues - before their trip to Manila. Most team members fit this description, thanks to a thorough program of personal and team preparation. The study also reveals that participating in a discovery team during a time of personal transition - such as a change in employment or marital status - increases the probability of team members implementing changes on return to their home country. Being immersed in an urban poor community, building relationships with local people, and reflecting regularly on these experiences all contribute to team members gaining a deeper understanding of the many ways that poverty impacts the lives of real people. Those who come to understand that there are connections between their own abundance and the poverty of others are very likely to develop a deeper sense of personal responsibility toward the poor. They are consequently more likely to continue responding to poverty through different aspects of their lifestyle, vocation and the practice of their faith. However, for most this requires some level of resolve to grow in personal maturity - particularly their ability to look beyond themselves - and a willingness to allow their Christian faith to adapt to a more complex understanding of reality. Responsible leadership, exercised by mature team leaders, also positively influences each of these outcomes in team members' lives.