Voluntourism Q & AWhat is voluntourism?

Voluntourism (volunteer tourism) is a growing travel trend. It involves trading a typical vacation for an experience volunteering in orphanages and communities in poorer regions of the world. It is an opportunity for others to assist women, men and children in need.

Who participates in voluntourism?

Typically, privileged Americans and Europeans are participants in voluntourism. Most volunteers are women between the ages of 20-25. In some cases, colleges and universities offer volunteer travel courses that replace “fun and sun” spring break trips.

When did voluntourism begin?

Voluntourism began in the 1960s when the Peace Corps was founded. Since then, the number of those volunteering as a form of vacation have steadily increased. Each year, about 1.2 million volunteers participate in voluntourism.

What are the positives associated with voluntourism?

 Traveling volunteers have the ability to engage others with important world issues. For example, after helping in Ghana, a person can return to the U.S. equipped with knowledge and stories that engage advocates. By speaking about their experience, they interest others in the cause. By doing this, more people can strive to make a difference in the lives of others. In addition, they are deepening their understanding of humanity, which contributes to a desire to create a better world for all.

What are the criticisms of voluntourism?

The biggest criticism of voluntourism is that it is a form of narcissism that allows travelers to make themselves the superheroes, the ones who “do good” for people who are impoverished. This idea can be seen when people post photos of themselves with children (that they do not know) or with people who they are helping. By posting these photos, volunteers are showcasing suffering and glorifying themselves.

For those who plan to participate in voluntourism, how can they truly have a positive experience?

The people who participate in voluntourism are by no means malicious. The problem comes when travelers are beefing up their resumes or adding a million pictures to Facebook. Voluntourism is not about self-fulfillment. For more meaningful work, leave IPhones at home or take pictures with the people you actually know. At the end of the trip, the experience isn’t really about making travelers feel good, but about donating time to help those who need it most.

Kelsey Parrotte

Sources: The Guardian, Huffington Post 1, Huffington Post 2, NPR, Pacific Standard Magazine, Responsible Travel Report
Photo: Flickr

quotes about helping
Here is a list of 10 quotes about helping others, compiled by The Borgen Project:

1. “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

2. “Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.” – Booker T. Washington

3. “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” – Maya Angelou

4. “Many small people, in many small places, do many small things, that can alter the face of the world.” – Unknown

5. “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” – Audrey Hepburn

6. “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” – Charles Dickens

7. “Believe, when you are most unhappy, that there is something for you to do in the world. So long as you can sweeten another’s pain, life is not in vain.” – Helen Keller

8. “Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve…. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

9. “I know of no great men except those who have rendered great service to the human race.” – Voltaire

10. “No one has ever become poor by giving.” – Anne Frank

Hannah Cleveland

Sources: GoodReads
Photo: The Motion Machine