Thursday, July 20, 2017

“Service Trips” and Voluntourism

From the Almost Doctor's Channel:
Do you want to feel fulfilled? Do you want to “Be the change you wish to see in the world?” How about adding some international healthcare experience to your residency applications? The common theme in those sentences is “you”. But it shouldn’t be about you, it should be about the people you’re there to help.

My least favorite but most common response when asking someone about their micro-trip abroad goes something like this: I was heartbroken to see how life is there. It really makes me realize just how good we have it. My life will never be the same.” (*Rolls eyes*)

If you truly want this experience — to change your world perspective, etc. — then at least call it like it is and admit you’re going on a self-fulfillment trip. Don’t call it humanitarian work when the only human benefiting from this experience is you.

As Al Jazeera America points out, “As admirably altruistic as it sounds, the problem with voluntourism is its singular focus on the volunteer’s quest for experience, as opposed to the recipient community’s actual needs.”

Ask yourself this: Do you want to go help, or do you want the people to be helped? If you honestly care more about the latter, then understand that the best way to help a community may not involve you personally traveling to it. Unskilled, short-term voluntourists often do very little to actually help a community develop in a sustainable manner. (Read more.)


Nancy Reyes said...

FYI: This is being posted as an anti religion screed on facebook, as if all "short term" projects were bible thumpers giving out bibles to poor Africans

Reality check please.

A lot of "short term" work by the untrained do not lead to "long term" development changes. Fine.

But most of them are not meant to. Often they are short term help for ongoing local projects, like helping to build churches or schools, or helping with orphans/street kids/refugees so that locals can have a much needed break. And don't forget those who do the glamourous "clean up" work after floods and typhoons.

Often these trips are sponsored by local churches, NGO's or government offices. Having eager kids bringing willing hands to work helps local moral, and even inspires local (middle or upper class) kids to do the same.

After going home, often they continue to support the locals who are there working for improvement, e.g. going home and raising money by bake sale to pay school fees for those they met, or sending supplies that are not available locally.

Often the experience influences their choices in later life.
Was Governor Brown's time volunteering for Mother Teresa a waste of time?

In short,

One doubts a similar screed would be pushed to criticize kids who spend their vacations camping out mountain, taking a language immersion course, or getting high at the beach.

elena maria vidal said...

I don't see anything anti-religious about it; it is merely pointing out that those who volunteer cannot be seeking their own fulfillment but rather genuinely helping the needy. I know of several doctors who go on medical missions and they genuinely accomplish a great deal of good in a short period of time.