Great care needs to be taken when choosing the most appropriate organisation to volunteer with. Many of the problems associated with volunteer tourism (cultural stereotyping, corruption, exploitation, taking local jobs, disrespecting local knowledge/expertise) need not exist if programs and sending organisations involved undertook more careful planning and effective management. Volunteer tourism and volunteering for development with other cultures is now a big industry and there are lots of for-profit based organisations willing to exploit both volunteers and the partners they work with (often exacerbating the issues many volunteers seek to assist in eradicating), so caution needs to be taken to ensure you choose a good organisation that is transparent.
Even before volunteers decide to participate, they need to understand that good intentions are not good enough. Volunteers need to take time to think about their expectations in terms of what they can achieve and the ways in which this might happen. It is important that volunteers understand their role as facilitators rather than implementors, and knowledge conveners rather than knowledge providers who are working within the privileged position of listener, learner and guest.
Discussion on issues associated with voluntourism can be found in the articles below:
- Hammersley, L.A. (2013). ‘Volunteer tourism: building effective relationships of understanding’. Journal of Sustainable Tourism. Vol.22:6. pp855-873.
- Guttendag, D., (2009). ‘The Possible Negative Effects of Volunteer Tourism‘. International Journal of Tourism Research, Vol.11:6. pp537-551.
- Simpson, K., (2004) ‘Doing Development, the Gap Year, and a Popular Practice of Development‘. Journal of International Development. 16, pp. 681-692.
- Stiglitz, J. (2013). ‘Nobel Prize Economist says American Inequality didn’t just happen it was Created’. Evonomics.
This is lengthy article by highly regarded economist, Joseph Stiglitz, about inequality and poverty and its global dimensions of origin and spread.
- Jenkin, M. (2015) ‘Does voluntourism do more harm than good?’ The Guardian.
- Martin, C. (2016). ‘Western do-gooders need to resist the allure of exotic problems’. The Guardian.
- Martin, C. (2015). ‘The “Third World” is not your classroom’. The Development Set.
- Stayton, M. (2015). ‘7 Reasons Why Your Two Week Trip To Haiti Doesn’t Matter: Calling Bull on “Service Trips”’.
- Comhlmah.org is an excellent website resource that covers issues to consider before volunteering abroad.
- Dr Kate Simpson: The Ethical Volunteering Guide: Ethical Volunteering Guide. Ethical Volunteering.