“What I discovered about Voluntourism”
One of the things that I have most admired in my entire life is volunteer work. It makes me, and I am sure it also makes you feel happy to live in a world where very privileged people worry about necessitous people in underdeveloped countries. But, alas, that which glitters is not always gold. Voluntourism is a form of tourism, not a form of voluntarism, in which travelers participate in voluntary work, typically for a charity.
The controversy that has emerged around this issue is: “Does voluntarism do more harm than good?” This question has came up a lot in regards to volunteer tourism. The New York Times published an article earlier this year called “The Voluntourist’s Dilemma” in which the author pointed out that volunteering abroad requires more than just the desire of exerting it. The Huffington Post has also done a good job by publishing several articles exposing all the truths behind voluntourism.
It is common in pretty much every article that I read that voluntourism has its drawbacks (listed below).
- Although there is a lot of great people doing an excellent job out there, there is also dubious operators that only explore not only the volunteers but also the people in need;
- Many camouflaged operators exploit, abuse, and traffic children;
- It is arguable that in the long run, sending raised funds (money) to countries in need is better and much more helpful than funding travel, accommodation, and feeding for volunteers. In addition to that, it seems like the volunteer’s need come first, which is not the purpose of voluntarism;
- Usually, volunteers who work with children have a tendency to make friends with them. It is noticed that the children become more traumatized when these people spend a short period of time with them and then leave. Also often times, when the “volunteer project” ends, some orphans go back to where they were recruited from. They go back to the streets to beg or they become prostitutes and marginals;
- When people who has no experience to do a certain job (for example heavy manual labor) are send to a certain country, they are taking the vague that local people could perform and earn a salary;
- After gaining independence, many ex-colonies struggled to develop a positive economic and grow as a country. By sending volunteers to these countries, the natives are stuck with the system of having internationals to do what locals are supposed to be doing. Causing these countries to be dependent and unable to overcome some barriers on their own.
Many people give this issue the benefit of doubt. This brings some disagreement because while some people want to travel and be in the field really thinking that for 2 weeks they are going to change the world, which is really not true, others say that it is better to fund-raise and find more useful ways to help countries in need.
Besides all these reasons, I am also familiarized with what I’m most concerned about regarding my continent. I can state that voluntarism has some very serious negative impact in Africa. I have known that people create fake orphanages, forcing children to pretend to be orphans, preventing them to go to school or develop one entrepreneurial activity to earn a living. Also many false dangerous projects had been developed. All of these just to get help (money) from the exterior, encouraging people to lie and dribs and deterring them to look for meaningful ways to develop their communities.
The negativity is not sags only on the helped. Volunteers are also affected. While doing my research, I found a link that says “Site that helps you to travel the world while helping people.” I believe this creates an idea of entertainment that is really not an essential of voluntarism. It also makes unaware people become more unaware since inexperienced volunteers are sent to a field where they underestimate the place and the people and create stereotypes of the same.
True voluntarism is an act of pure altruism. But let’s be careful and analyze what we believe and board in.