Voluntourism – Just for WASPs???

Interesting article I found on the Suburban Struggle blog – what do you think, is voluntourism just for WASPs??

“Like unpaid internships, WASPs can be held responsible for keeping the voluntourism industry alive and well.  WASPs love nothing better than getting in touch with their philanthropic side by travelling to a developing country and volunteering at a local school, AIDS clinic, or grassroots NGO.  Voluntourism, like the unpaid internship, allows WASPs to combine quasi-legitimate work with a vacation.  In addition to boosting their resume, they get to travel to an exotic place and add more stamps to their passport.

Voluntourism is so attractive to young WASPs because of its “real” factor.  Unlike their parents, who are more likely to give to the poor via charity balls and auctions, the younger generation likes to get down and dirty.  Well, not really that dirty.  If they have the time and internet connection to post pictures of themselves playing with African children on facebook, it is safe to assume that they are doing pretty well over there.  At least better than the local population that they are helping.  Nevertheless, voluntourism does force WASPs out of their comfort zone and asks them to interact with people who are different, which is a startling experience for most white people, and so we suppose that they deserve some credit.

Voluntourism also helps with the WASP with their street cred, which they are sorely lacking.  Most WASPs hail from quiet suburbs such as the one featured in the movie “Pleasantville.”  They are desperate to travel to other countries so that they can prove that they are not that white and have some awareness of the world around them.  Therefore, the more dangerous the place, the better the cred.  Going to Rwanda, for example, is considered soooo cool because there was, as you may have heard, a genocide there not too long ago.  In fact, voluntourism occurs all the over the world, but anywhere in Africa is pretty much considered the trump card of street cred.

Neither of the two authors of this blog have had the opportunity to partake in any voluntourism yet (you better believe we are looking into it), but three summers ago I worked (volunteered) in the office of an organization that ran voluntourism trips.  One of my responsibilities was photocopying and filing applications – 98% of them were from white people with university degrees.  Based on this sampling, we have strong evidence to suggest that voluntourism really is a WASP phenomenon.”


3 thoughts on “Voluntourism – Just for WASPs???

  1. The authors seem surprised that those who can afford to participate in voluntourism seek it out at a greater rate than those who can’t. We find that all sorts of people gain great personal reward from engaging in service when they travel, and those with less are often more driven to give back. But, if anyone of any race,religion or ethnic heritage would prefer to earn their “cred” without volunteering, please donate to Farther Foundation, http://www.fartherfoundation.org. We send decidedly unwaspy, low-income high school students on educational travel programs around the world, where they engage in learning and service.

  2. Well, WASP’s an American concept, and voluntourism is certainly well established in other cultures. But yes, it often does appeal to people with a higher level of education. If these people know they’ve been fortunate and want to return something to the global community, what’s wrong with that? Their knowledge, their enthusiasm and their money are all sorely needed in the world. I don’t agree it’s just for kids looking to gain street cred, though there are probably some of those, too. It also appeals strongly to ‘mature’ people who for years have been enraptured by TV wildlife films (such as those from the BBC), or are prompted to action in order to overcome a sense of despair over the plight of poverty. They’ve been to enough beach resorts, tours etc, and have come to feel they’d rather not be part of the problem that mass tourism often brings to local communities.
    Volunteering to pay money to do something useful in a place that needs both funding and knowledge has to be a better idea than paying a lot more money to destroy a local environment and community by inflicting our vacation culture of partytime and excessive luxuries on them – and then excluding them thus causing deep resentment.
    It would be a pity if this remained a domain of the WASPs, if that post is to be believed. But knocking their doing it at all is hardly likely to encourage its expansion through further branches of society. But I don’t think it is just WASPs doing this kind of thing – it’s more likely that only WASP’s chose THAT particular organisation. The rest of us find other ways or organise our own.

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