What is voluntourism?
Put together volunteering and tourism and you get voluntourism- a form travel in which you participate in voluntary, charitable work.
But is it for selfless humanitarian reasons, or for selfish job opportunities?
Companies that offer travel and job prospects is Global Work and Travel, STA Travel, Work and Travel AUS, and Gap360.
You pay for the trip and get a holiday and an interview at your destination included (not guaranteed).
Travelling for humanitarian aid is the aspect of voluntourism that is most criticized. While you may think you are travelling for all the good reasons you may be a part of a bigger problem, which is both colonialism and stripping away jobs for locals (remember that for you to come in and be willing to work for free takes away the opportunity for locals to get a job).
But is it new colonialism?
Is volunteering overseas becoming the new colonialism? That’s the question that is being asked by some media reports in the UK suggesting that “the positive aspects of volunteer travel are hindered when a group of travellers believes it’s their responsibility to fix the lives and communities of another.”
That although there is good intentions, the volunteers don’t know the culture, language, protocols, past and present leadership of the country, or what has been attempted before.
Volunteers come in with a sense of responsibility, that if they don’t do this, then nobody will. Which is just not the case.
An excerpt from the article by ABC Australia back in March details this issue in one paragraph:
“‘It’s done for the experience of the volunteer’, says Roger O’Halloran, the executive director of PALMS, an NGO that was born out of the Catholic social movement of lay missionaries. ‘It’s all about the volunteer, with the pretence of helping someone, and I don’t buy it.’
The organisation sends its volunteers overseas for two years at a time. O’Halloran worries about companies that send people away for short periods of time (often a couple of weeks or even days) to build, say, a mud hut. Many of the young volunteers would be going without building skills, which poses the question of whether someone in that local community could do a better job.”
It is food for thought to society in a major way. I hope this opens your eyes in the way that you think critically about the things you’re signing up for when travelling. To make a good and effective change in the world we must look at all the things that came before and rule out the things that just aren’t working.
In my opinion, voluntourism just isn’t.
Other articles for a good read into the possible narcissism in volunteering overseas:
- The Problem with Little White Girls, Boys, and Voluntourism
- Instagramming Africa: The Narcissism of Global Voluntourism
- Beware the voluntourists intent on doing good
- Gap years: Voluntourism -who are you helping?