We all love Epcot’s World Showcase, right? Whether it’s strolling through and eating a particular country’s best foods, sampling wines or experiencing unique cultural entertainment, I can honestly say that visiting some of the countries in World Showcase inspired me to travel around the world to explore the real thing! But what if there was a different kind of attraction that made you think differently about a country? One that shows some of the harsh realities you wouldn’t find in World Showcase, a travel brochure or a television ad? What if there was a sort of “anti-Epcot?”
A brand new attraction has opened in Los Angeles that aims to do just that. The Poverty Encounter has been a passion project of the Children’s Hunger Fund for a few years now. The idea is to grow a greater understanding of poverty around the world through several unique interactive immersive environments.
Designed by Storyland Studios (headed by former Disney Imagineer Mel McGowan), guests enter a lobby which looks like the check-in counter at an airport. After getting their “boarding pass,” they are taken through several representations of countries with extreme poverty conditions.
Through the use of realistic indoor sets, special effects and actors, guests are brought into the story of three countries and are told true stories of how children search, cook and collect food.
No doubt, you’ve seen charity videos and commercials that show hungry children in need. And without question, those are effective and there are several charities who you can donate to those causes. However, what if you could create a true connection? Immersive attractions allow you to get lost in the story.
In The Poverty Encounter, guests will experience what it’s like to try to find food in garbage dump communities, indentured slave yards or displaced people camps. The idea is to try and instill a true sense of empathy without having to fly to these countries and experience it for yourself.
Most importantly, instead of the typical attraction sending you to a gift shop after the experience is over, The Poverty Encounter does something revolutionary. It gives you the chance to make a difference. At the end of the attraction, you get to volunteer to help send food to the countries you just learned about. It’s absolutely ingenious and I hope it spurs other non-profits to create immersive attractions that allow guests to volunteer in other charitable causes.
For more information on The Poverty Encounter and to book your visit, check out their website at PovertyEncounter.org.
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Images Courtesy: Storyland Studios