Voluntourism a Dirty Word?


How did you respond to this article by Lucy Corne at BootsnAll?

Voluntourism a Dirty Word?

You’d think that giving up a few hours for a good cause while you’re on vacation would be a positive thing, but despite its apparent virtue, voluntourism sure comes up against a lot of criticism. Is it just miserable onlookers determined to complain about everything or is there actually a negative side to donating your time to a charity while you travel?

For those who aren’t too sure, voluntourism is exactly what it sounds like — a blend of volunteering and tourism. Normally arranged through agencies in your home country, a voluntourism trip typically lasts two or three weeks and involves plenty of sightseeing as well as a few days working with a local cause. For those with more time to spare, specialist agencies organize long-term placements lasting from one month to a full year,  though it’s not just time you’ll need an excess of — these trips will typically set you back $2000-3000 a month.

To read the rest: http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/09-01/voluntourism-dirty-word.html

3 thoughts on “Voluntourism a Dirty Word?

  1. While I agree that many volunteer travel companies charge a lot for their services, as long as people are willing to pay and the service they receive meets or exceeds expectations I don’t have a problem with that. I would never pay $2000 for a hotel room, but there are people who will – and who appreciate the service at hotels like that. I don’t have to stay there – there are less espensive options.

    Sure you can find volunteer opportunities that don’t cost as much, but people are willing to pay to have their needs taken care of and to work with an organization they trust. You could do as the article suggests and find a charity to work for without the help of a service, but there is risk involved. Many charities are not what they seem to be, and unless you do your research well, you could end up in a less than desirable situation, or your “volunteer fees” paid directly to the charity could end up lining someone’s pockets. It’s common for this sort of thing to happen in developing countries. This is one of the challenges we face at Voluntraveler as we look to expand our volunteer program to other charities in South America this year.

    I went to Ecuador with a trusted tour company (GAP Adventures) last summer and I could have arranged the same trip for less, but by going with a tour company I was able to relax and enjoy myself without having to put much effort into research or planning. I trusted, and had a great experience.

    Volunteer travel, when done well, will benefit both the traveler and the community. The traveler will have felt their time was well spent, the community will be better off (even if only slightly) and the traveler will return home at the very least a more understanding person, and at the best an advocate and actor for positive change in the world.

    What could be a better result of travel than that?

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with Jason’s comments. DIY volunteering the developing world is certainly possible but I recommend it for a specific type of person who has traveled extensively in the developing world and speaks the local language, who might not necessarily need the support or back up that an organization would offer.

    While more and more people are familiar with the concept of program fees when volunteering abroad, I usually recommend the Idealist’s International Volunteerism Resource Center, http://www.idealist.org/en/ivrc/cost.html for people who are new to this. They make the good point that when we volunteer in our own communities we don’t expect organizations to pay for our meals, transportation or housing, so why should it be any different when abroad?

  3. Great points by Will and Jason.
    In all of our trips (Hands Up Holidays – http://www.handsupholidays.com), we include in the trip price all the materials used whilst volunteering, as well as a donation to the community.
    Generally our guests stay in 4-5* accommodation, and our philosophy is that our guests are on vacation, and want to make a positive impact through a taste of volunteering, but clearly this has to be paid for.
    And staying in such high-end accommodation is not for everyone, but especially for older people, families or honeymooners who want to help but not rough it, it works really well.
    And for those happy to rough it, we can tailormake to suit any budget, and there are also lots of other good operators out there, but ask discerning questions!

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