why don’t people research their volunteer trip BEFORE they travel not AFTERWARDS! do th

By Sallie Grayson. Filed in articles by people and places, good and bad practice  |  
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Sallie has just had a little rant on the Better Volunteering page we manage on FaceBook keep calm

“There is a lot of discussion about “voluntourism”  volunteer travel in the press and on blogs at the moment – and there is a rash of articles written by returned voluntourists who question the merit of their “3 days teaching” on their return home. Well Im getting cross – why didnt they question the merit – BEFORE they parted with a load of money and set off to change the world in a few hours. Why didn’t they question what possible help they could be without the requisite skills – and then whether even with the skills  they could have positive impact in a matter of hours.Why didn’t they reseach the growing body of advise against short term unskilled voluntourism BEFORE they travelled? There are good organisations out there matching real skills to real needs – they are difficult to find – you have to do your homework – why arent more people doing so. Heres another of those articles that are making me so cross at the moment!

“reflecting on my own experiences and reading the opinions of those more qualified than I about the negative impacts voluntourism can have on communities, I have realized that these programs often do more harm than good and we must be careful about the channels we use when offering our services. All service is not good service and good intentions do not always translate to a positive impact.” ( it appears the writer volunteered for a matter of hours )

11 Comments

  1. Comment by Sallie:

    It goes without saying that our volunteers do a lot – a lot of research – not only to find us ( poverty striken marketing budget) but once they have found us – they read a huge amount of info we send to them – and ask questions – talk with previous volunteers – communicate with our local partners – and do so much indepedent resaerch into the work they are going to do

  2. Comment by kate stefanko:

    and there is more and more information out there all the time – so why not use it ???

  3. Comment by npegler1:

    Well having read the article my first response is that I am not middle-to-upper-class, by any stretch of the imagination! I will be volunteering in Peru this year and a large chunk of my wages will go on funding this.
    I quote . . .
    “We need to leave communities better than how we found them. And sometimes, the way to do that is by not participating in volunteer tourism at all. Do you want to make a difference for a developing or impoverished community? Take a vacation there, stay out of chain hotels and restaurants, spend your money in local shops and enjoy the fascinating culture as what you are – a tourist.”

    Or maybe volunteer with a responsible organisation after doing your research, that way you can understand the country you are volunteering in, you know your money is going to the local community, you can be of help because you are working with the local community doing what THEY want and finally you learn something AND have a great time, that`s a win, win to me!

  4. Comment by Vicky S:

    Now there’s a research subject for someone doing an MSc… don’t think that one has been done before. Research volunteer tourism researching!
    We must have reached some sort of tipping point, when we start getting into more specifics like this, not just the general “motivations” and “impacts” studies of past???

  5. Comment by Sallie:

    spot on Nigel – the image that all volunteers are young and funded by rich partents is very annoying –

  6. Comment by Sallie:

    justb wish i knew what that tipping point was Vicky – but I guess thatsthe nature of tipping points – only seen in hindsight

  7. Comment by Sallie:

    Also i should point out that
    1. Our volunteers and we soundly dislike the term voluntourist.
    2. Our volunteers are – just that volunteers – they often come to us with ideas of countries that would like to visit but in discussions with Kate agree happily to go to other locations – because thier priority is to volunteer their skills. Yes they may add a holiday at the end of thier trip but they work a full working week ( and often longer)

  8. Comment by npegler1:

    When I first volunteered with people and places in 1997 I expressed an interest in Madagascar and ended up in South Africa! because that is where my skills were most useful, very persuasive that Kate Stefanko! but that is how a good volunteer organisation is run it`s not where you want a holiday but where you are most useful.

  9. Comment by Sallie:

    know it must feel like nearly 20 years ago Nigel but it was infact 2007 we didnt start placing volunteers til 2006!

  10. Comment by kate:

    thanks Nigel – we’re pleased and proud to work hard at putting the right people in the right places !!!

  11. Comment by npegler1:

    Freudian slip I think Sallie! editing the newsletter does age one considerably!

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