I recently read a blog post by another voluntourism blogger claiming that The Observer article hurt the industry and I just wanted to make a comment on that and start a debate. I can’t reference the blog post because the last time I did he threatened to sue me.
Yes, I have been interviewed a lot recently about work in orphanages and I will stand by all of my comments. I have never said not to volunteer in orphanages, just to make sure the operator travelers go through acts responsibly, as I have seen quite a lot of bad examples (and the feedback came directly from the orphanage leaders not me making it up).
So I have to question what is better for the industry? Putting up a post as he did about some Tanzanian woman wanting to start a voluntourism organization, great intentions but does one woman’s decision to help make her an expert in the field? Nobody has started any of these projects with bad intentions, it is exactly people like this woman with all the best intentions but not the development experience that create projects that only seem beneficial to children (as was proven in the recent study).
I think what helps this industry more is challenging our preconceived notions and making companies take a hard look at their projects to ensure they are truly sustainable. Anyone can post a Dear John letter, but not everyone is brave enough to challenge the industry to make itself better. That is what this blog is all about and I hope all that read it benefit in that way.
And for the record you can always quote me or reference my blog, even if it’s not in a positive manner – the more we’re challenged the more we learn.