To start off with what is voluntourism? According to the Oxford dictionary it is:
A form of tourism in which travellers participate in voluntary work, typically for a charity.
On the surface it seems like a good idea but I when I really began to think deeply into it I began to feel quite uncomfortable with the idea.
Why, you ask? Well let me list a few of my issues with it.
I often wonder what is the real reason behind it. Many charities that run such programmes are able to offer travel at a cheaper rate- and rightly so along with many other cost cutting alternatives due to their charity status. I do wonder if some of those who do sign up are only interested because it is a cheaper way of travelling abroad and 'exploring' so to speak of. The way I see things is that if you're not active in any local organisation or volunteering in any capacity at home why on earth are you so keen to go abroad? Charity, they say begins at home. Maybe you're interested because it is a chance to volunteer abroad in an 'exotic' place. Truth is there are many places and organisations that could do with an extra pair of helping hands in the country that you're in now. Why wait to go abroad before you volunteer?
Of course it can be argued that it is a great way to combine a love for travel as well as volunteering too. It can be but I guess my gripe with it is part of a bigger problem. More often than not such schemes are touted as 'gap year projects' or something that 'great for the CV'. Are they great for the communities involved? Do they provide long lasting change or are they are great way to satiate our ego and make us 'feel good' at the expense of others.
If you are interested in volunteering abroad I would say do your research over the charity and also the local community involved. Sometimes it may just be better to buy your own ticket, sort out your own accommodation and then find a local charity to volunteer with. It may be more 'costly' but the reward is priceless.