Shit…was I a voluntourist?
Chuck McKeever
51

Chuck, I hear the same concerns voiced about medical students who are sometimes accused of “medical tourism” — they go to Haiti, Nicaragua, et al for a couple of weeks, help at clinics, then disappear. Some of them have expressed similar sentiments, wondering if it was worth it, did they do more harm than good, etc. I think a key question to ask is this: Is the trip you made part of something sustainable (WorldTeach, the Peace Crops, Doctors Without Borders, etc.)? I’d say unequivocally, yes. If you take the long view, what you and so many others did and continue to do is extremely beneficial and outweighs any negatives. Your students passed their tests, you shared your wisdom and let them know someone cared enough about them to give up a year of his life. Then you left — but someone else continued the cycle there, while you brought back to the states a new world view that has affected not only your life, but your new students in Seattle, and future students wherever you end up. If not for the RMI year, would you be in your current job now? Maybe not — and those adult students in Seattle who have benefited from your knowledge and empathy would have missed out on your benificence. Everyone you have touched since your return has benefited in some way from your year on Aur. It may not be quantifiable, but it’s there. So don’t beat up your 21-year-old self, or your 25-year-old self, for that matter. You are more than repaying the $100/month and whatever carbon footprint you contributed to. The plane would have gone there anyway.

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