1. a form of tourism in which travellers participate in voluntary work, typically for a charity.
“at the core of voluntourism is the desire to help others”
It sounds like the ideal thing to do right? But there’s so much controversy circling this booming sector. One of the main things that I found ethically wrong about this concept is the fact that voluntourism benefits only the volunteer. Some may say that that’s a good thing, I mean who wouldn’t want to feel great for giving something back to the community…
In my opinion, I think that feeling good about yourself for volunteering is very selfish. You shouldn’t feel like you’re a Godsend to the community for giving them your time. Most importantly, if you’re thinking of volunteering, you should also think about what skills you can offer to people. It’s all very well going to an orphanage and playing with the children, but what happens when you leave. Aren’t you scarring the children even more than before?
Going to Morocco was something of an experience like I mentioned above. I didn’t feel like I was actually doing anything no matter what project I did – except for feeding the homeless, because each of us put a small amount of money towards the food so we felt a bit more useful. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great experience. But the fact that I couldn’t be bothered on some days to go to projects shows that this wasn’t the type of volunteering experience I had hoped for.
I would be lying if I said that I had always known about this. And yes I admit to taking pictures whilst volunteering in the past as keepsakes for the future. However, it was only recently that I realised my stupidity. I have been unknowingly treating people in a different community as zoo animals: being amazed by the conditions that they live in and then leaving.
All is not at a loss! Especially for a medic. It’s been my dream for a number of years to work with MSF. An organisation that send out doctors to poverty-stricken and war-torn countries in order to provide them with free medical aid. You see something like that is my holy grail of volunteering – not only are you fearful for your life, you also provide people with something which in effect saves their lives.
So to conclude, if anyone is thinking of volunteering I suggest you research really well. Be careful not to fall into the traps of companies online that offer you “an experience of a lifetime”. Ask yourself these questions:
How can I help this community?
What skills do I have?
Will they actually benefit from me being there?
Am I doing this because I need to or because of the feeling it gives me?
If you have any doubts or questions, feel free to contact me. I would be more than happy to offer as much help as I can.