Voluntourism – bite-sized vacations volunteering for a charitable cause – is now a booming business. Worth up to $2.6 billion dollars world wide, volunteering is more commericalised than ever and has lead many to questions the ethics – do the people on the receiving end of the “volunteering” get as much out of it as those trying so hard to do something good?
Australian’s who have headed overseas to dedicate their holiday leave to back breaking work, often at their own expense, will say all the effort is worth it. It can be extremely rewarding to help others in disadvantaged situations but the drawback is it can take jobs away from local workers. Other Voluntourism experiences involve bonding with local children, only to leave them at a loss when the volunteers head home again.
If you are thinking of taking a Voluntourism trip, make sure all your efforts will be as rewarding for those you are trying to help as it will be for you. Do you homework using the following steps:
1. Find an organization whose ethics you are comfortable with
Look for an organisation that represents the developing world in a positive, respectful way. Avoid companies that make it sound like you will be saving locals who are not able to save themselves.
2. Ask pointed questions to make sure your trip is well organised to gain best benefit for you and the project.
- Do they match the work needed to be done to your skills?
- What information can they provide prior to your departure on the work involved and the culture you will be living in?
- What will your weekly schedule be and what breaks will you have?
- What are the local support people’s roles and responsibilies?
- Can you contact some Australian returned volunteers?
3. Make sure your money is going where it should be
How willing the organisation is to answer the following financial questions will give you a good indication of their ethics:
- Where will you be staying and in what conditions?
- Do the local staff receive a fair wage?
- Are host families remunerated for only their costs for a small profit?
- Are local leaders employed to direct efforts on projects?
- What efforts are make towards professional development in the local community?
- Are materials purchased locally to support the economy?
By doing your homework your Voluntourism experience will be all the more rewarding, knowing all your efforts have been poured in the right direction.