Serving the World Through Voluntourism
By Jennifer Allman-Guinn, on November 21, 2019
Volunteering abroad, or voluntourism is a growing trend in world travel that can be a deeply enriching and rewarding experience for volunteers and the communities they serve. Areas that need educators, workers, and other skilled expertise can truly benefit from those willing and able to make a commitment and put in the hard work to truly make a positive difference. Not all good intentions, however, lead to positive results, so it is important to understand exactly how you can leave a lasting impact on your chosen community.
- Understanding the culture you are entering allows everyone involved to learn from one another. A truly helpful volunteer is one that continues to work on behalf of their chosen community even when not physically present. For example, simply helping to build a new school is noble work, but does nothing to address whether the education system itself is doing all it can to properly educate their children.
- By taking the time to learn from the people of the community, you can begin to understand the education system and become one more advocate that helps to ensure that a new school is properly staffed and filled with the proper materials and resources.
Know the Country’s Workforce and Infrastructure
To that end, ensure you know whether the work will continue after you have left. And even more importantly, seek to understand whether this work would be completed without any volunteer help. As a volunteer, you will obviously not be paid for your work. But does this mean that skilled laborers who would otherwise have employment suddenly find themselves out of a job? If your volunteer effort means increased poverty for the citizens you want to help, you may want to rethink your plans.
Focus on the Skills You Already Possess
If you are not skilled in building, but are an educator or a community organizer, consider volunteering in those areas instead. Helping others needs to be about providing the best possible assistance where it is needed most. And again, inexperienced labor may hurt your otherwise well-intentioned work in the long run.