For the past few weeks I’ve been traveling in Peru and Bolivia with a tour company that practices what it dubs “responsible travel.” Essentially, Gecko’s Adventures designs their tours to minimize travelers’ impact on the environment while maximizing interaction with the local community and ensuring that those communities benefit financially from Gecko’s tour groups (e.g. we stay in locally-owned hotels vs. the Holiday Inn).
On this particular trip, my tour group also had the opportunity to spend the night with a host family on Amantani Island, where 800 families live in mud-brick homes with no electricity and a single faucet in the yard for running water. In return for our lodging, we brought gifts of rice, sugar, cooking oil, and bananas – items that are difficult to come by on the island.
This got me thinking that I didn’t have to fly to the Southern Hemisphere to have a positive impact on an economically depressed neighborhood.
About 24% of Brooklynites live in poverty. In fact, Kings County is one of the poorest in the nation (despite all those Brooklyn Heights mansions). While most media and entertainment outlets focus on Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, DUMBO, Williamsburg, et al., Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Crown Heights, and East New York only make the papers if someone gets shot. It’s an unfair bias as there are consistent improvements being made in these and other historically depressed Brooklyn communities, and all they need to rival the more renowned neighborhoods is a little time.
So this week, instead of going to Union Hall to celebrate it not losing its liquor license, venture to a new Brooklyn neighborhood in a position to benefit from your weekly allowance. Some destination ideas are below (and please, leave more in the comments). En route, why don’t you try a local restaurant?
CROWN HEIGHTS: Jewish Children’s Museum
EAST NEW YORK: The New Lots Reformed Church
WEEKSVILLE: Weeksville Heritage Center