This is an article I wrote recently for our blog. As an ex-teacher, I of course hope lots of people will volunteer to improve the educational opportunities for children around the world. However it is important that this is done responsibly and thoughtfully to make sure these volunteers don’t do more harm than good. The article is designed to give some guidelines – it was included in discussions by the panel looking at alternatives to orphanage volunteering at the 2019 World Travel Market and is referenced in Beyond Orphanage Visits: Resources for Travel and Volunteering Organisations on Responsible Alternatives to Orphanage Tourism and Volunteering
Picture the scene – you are in school but your normal teacher isn’t here today. Instead there are two people from a foreign country. You have had people like this in your classroom before – they are always friendly and quite good fun – it’s a nice break from learning. They talk to you in a foreign language – you think it’s English because you have started to learn English with your teacher and you recognise some of the words, although they sound different when these strangers say them. They start to chant something: ‘A, B, C . . . ‘- you recognise this – the people who came last year did the same chant and you learnt it then so you join in enthusiastically – ‘D, E, F . . . ‘. The strangers are pleased – they smile at you. What does it mean? – nothing as far as you know – it’s probably just one of those nonsense rhymes. Now it’s getting a bit scary – they seem to be talking to you one at a time and waiting for each of you to say something in return – don’t they know how rude it is to speak to an older person? Now one of them gets out a big book and starts to read a story. She reads in English and you have no idea what she’s talking about so you just look at the pictures. But all the children in the pictures have white skins – they live in houses that do not look like yours and the animals and trees in the pictures also look very strange – this is nothing to do with you.