You’re not helping, you’re on holiday – the problem with ‘voluntourism’

The global poor don’t need entitled, middle-class (almost half of private school pupils take gap years, compared to 1 in 5 overall), Westerners coming over to lay a few bricks and pose for a few photos. If you genuinely want to help, donate some money and let the experts and locals do their jobs. Otherwise, keep schtum.

Volun-tourism isn’t just irritating, it can also be harmful. Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) has described charity tourism as a new form of colonialism. Judith Brodie, who was once UK director, suggested students travelling to developing countries can in fact end up doing more harm than good. In particular, she has criticised the emphasis on volunteer enjoyment over how to help the communities they work in.

…Popping in to teach baffled children English, or to harvest a couple of plants, is inefficient, ineffective, and won’t help impoverished communities around the world to prosper. What these communities want and deserve are the tools, resources, and opportunities to learn and to do that work themselves. They require financial support, not unskilled volunteer labour.

You’re not helping, you’re on holiday – the problem with ‘voluntourism’


One thought on “You’re not helping, you’re on holiday – the problem with ‘voluntourism’

  1. I always wondered about how much that can help anyone, because it feels more like a “look at me” thing. Unless that volunteering leads to joining a nonprofit, or being a UNICEF ambassador to raise money, or something like that, then it should stop. Sending money to the right people who can stretch it is the best move. Reminds me of “canned food drives” and how “helpful” they are–best to give money to the food banks who can make deals with sellers to stretch the dollars out.

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