[ View the story "Selfies or Selfless: The politics of volunteer tourism" on Storify] Selfies or Selfless: The politics of volunteer tourism How can international volunteers turn a multi-billion industry into a sustainable force for good?
The Stream· Wed, May 13 2015 18:33:01
Volunteer tourism, or
, is an increasingly popular travel trend, where holiday-goers pay money to do community service projects in developing countries. The approximately $2 billion industry
to more than 1.6 million volunteer tourists each year.
Most voluntourists come from the United States and the United Kingdom, with
90 per cent
going to Africa, Asia or Latin America. Proponents of this form of social work
it as a way to experience other cultures while making a difference.
Volunteering with Projects Abroad: How does it work?Projects Abroad
As the industry has grown, so has criticism of the practice. Sceptics
voluntourism does more harm than good by placing privileged, unskilled Samaritans in foreign countries and cultures they know little about. Others point to the proliferation of exploitative practices like "orphanage tourism" in
. Disaster zones have also seen a rise in visitors hoping to do some good. After the 2010
in Haiti, and the recent earthquake in Nepal, experts
against uncoordinated volunteerism, which they say slows down relief efforts.
End Humanitarian Douchery
Africa for Norway
have mocked the industry, which critics
is part of the "white-saviour industrial complex". They say it is reminiscent of colonial fantasies of white or western heroism in developing countries:
Who Wants To Be A Volunteer?SAIH Norway
TIMS -- A Revolutionary New One for One CampaignTripp and Tyler
Volunteer organisations like
more responsible volunteering. The founder of the group shares his views on the programme's site:
there is a big difference between applying your skills for social good to help solve real challenges vs. engaging in manual work for a feeling of “giving back”. At MovingWorlds, we support hundreds of organizations around the world looking for support in specific skill areas and consistently see the need for skilled volunteers.blog.movingworlds.org
We asked The Stream community to share its opinions of volunteer tourists:
@AJStream depends on what kind of help they try to do. If humanitarian then yes it can be helpful but they can't do something in-depthRamyar Hassani
@AJStream the "rich" want to experience poverty, crisis, Luddite life. They want to channel their privilege into serving the needy.Zhreya!
@AJStream foreign tourists do volunteer in my country sometimes the community service are hurtful but most of the time it's helpful.Asiya Garba
@nafeezi @AJStream My high school missions trips have led me to eventually move to Ghana and start an NGO as an adult.Dr. Jenny Beck
Some community members expressed concern about the business of volunteer tourism:
@AJStream The fact that an entire industry thrives on #voluntourism does bother me. Sounds like a commodification of the human experienceFrancois-Xavier Ada
@AJStream I yearn for the day when people travel to Africa to enjoy all the beauty it has to offer, rather than "help out" some childrenFatima Hewaidi
@AJStream majority of the narrative is centred around the person's experience instead of the community's needsAditi Bhargava
One user suggested how best to make a positive impact:
@AJStream (part 1) visit and get to know the native people. They will tell you what you need to know and what they need ASSISTANCE with.Hassanatu
@AJStream (part 2) people there are probably already doing the work you want to do but need more support. So listen and collaborate.Hassanatu