If You Can’t Take the Heat…

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.


5 thoughts on “If You Can’t Take the Heat…

  1. I couldn’t agree more. As someone who recently started a nonprofit, it’s critical to understand the impact on the local community before launching a project. We all start with good intentions (I’d hope), but we need to partner with responsible organizations that are committed to responsible practices. It may seem like common sense but many NGOs are exploiting people for profits. With orphanages or other NGOs, we need to ensure that a project ACTUALLY benefits the community it serves.

  2. It is so important to look objectively at the field of international volunteerism and realize that if we are not careful, we can harm those we are trying the help. It has been interesting debates from the Observer article unfold. There are so many organizations out there doing all different types of work that it can difficult to make definitive statements about impact. But I think the Observer article is a warning and an opportunity for us in the industry, to do some self-reflection and perhaps some future volunteers to examine their impact as well.
    -Genevieve Brown, IVPA Executive Director

  3. Yes, Yes, Yes, ladies. Speaking from my perspective as an individual volunteer, I feel it is up to each volunteer to do their own due diligence. Just as you would thoroughly research any organization you want to join or donate to, it is up to each individual to make sure the structure, mission, board, and projects of the organization are in alignment to truly benefit the community and fit with the volunteer’s goals and heart.

    It can take some time doing the research, speaking to former volunteers, and checking references and financials. But if you are going on a volunteer trip, how could you possibly chose a project without a conscious knowledge of what you will be doing and how it impacts the community?

  4. I definitely agree with your perspective. If the industry isn’t challenged to improve itself, and more importantly be held accountable, then there is little opportunity for progress. Keep up the good fight.

    And he seriously threatened to sue you because you linked to his article? a) That’s outrageous and b) He doesn’t have a legal foot to stand on.


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