The concept of voluntourism attempts to combine volunteering, international travel, cultural exchange and learning objectives.
The modern concept is advertised as having the power to educate, transform and make a difference to both volunteers and the communities who host them.
A 'mutual exchange' with 'mutual benefits'
Different Volunteer Travel Opportunites
Orphanage and Slum Tourism
Working within orphanages and slums
Painting schools, building constructions
Teaching English and other basic classes in schools
Animal and Environment Tourism
Working with animal and other conservation-focused activities
The industry of voluntourism is estimated to be worth $2.6 billion (USD) per year (as of 2019).
Over 10 million people go abroad each year for leisure purposes. It is becoming increasingly popular for people to enhance their travels with altruistic work.
It is estimated that 1.6 million people volunteer abroad annually.
Statistics provided by:
Voluntourism does not often involve sustainable long-term solutions. But instead, focus on band-aid, solutions through short-term projects.
Volunteers are often unskilled and as a result, do not have constructive services to contribute.
Volunteer programs have the potential to take jobs from local community members and local businesses. Subsequently, also undermining the capabilities of local people.
Volunteer companies are often profit-driven and unregulated, allowing for exploitation to easily occur.
Orphanage Tourism is among the most popular choices for people volunteering internationally.
In the past ten years, Orphanage tourism has more than doubled in Cambodia alone (75% rise)
Within Nepal, 90% of all orphanages are located around Kathmandu; the nation's most popular tourist destination.
There are an estimated 8 million children living in orphanages worldwide.
Within Cambodia, 80% of adolescents who live in orphanages have at least one living parent.
In many other countries around the world, the statistics are estimated to be even higher:
85% in Nepal
90% in Uganda
95% in Sri Lanka
Statistics provided by Ayana Journeys
The Cambodian Children's Trust estimates that children raised in institutions are:
More likely to be involved in prostitution
More likely to have a criminal record
More likely to take their own life
Other potential consequences for children living in institutionalised care:
Trauma through abandonment, abuse and neglect
The potential for the loss of culture
The potential loss of identity
Lack of education
Inability to integrate into society
Normalisation of abuse
Vulnerability to trafficking, resulting in further and ongoing abuse
Wanting to volunteer overseas? How ethical are your choices?
If it isn't acceptable for individuals within your own community, should it be acceptable for people within overexploited nations such as Nepal?
Am I qualified? Such as speaking the language, or having a qualification in the focussed specialised field?
Before embarking on my journey, do I have an in-depth understanding of the nation's cultural, political and social aspects of society?
Can I commit long-term and develop an understanding of the community’s needs?
Does the organisation meet the minimum standards for child protection and/or working conditions?
Does the organisation have long-term, trained staff who are of the same nationality as the nation I am working within?
Does the project I will be embarking on have long-term strategies? If so, how effective are they?
Does the organisation require child protection policies that cover all staff and volunteers?
Does the organisation have realistic strategies for stable, long-term funding?
Does the organisation have a system that shows it can be financially accountable and transparent?
Do my intentions outweigh my overall impact within the community? And will that impact be negative or positive?
Is my contribution creating a sustainable impact?
Am I taking the potential job of someone who could be employed locally?
Are there any volunteer opportunities within my own community that I can consider participating within instead?
Would donating funds be of greater use to the community than my time and presence?
Is my impact necessary and needed?
How will my impact be received long-term?
If you cannot answer all of these questions adequately prior to your volunteer trip, then it is a clear sign that your impact would be one with detrimental consequences.
Organisations To Explore Further
Cambodian Children's Trust
"Learning Service offers a powerful new approach that invites volunteers to learn from host communities before trying to ‘help’ them. It’s also a thoughtful critique of the sinister side of volunteer travel; a guide for turning good intentions into effective results; and essential advice on how to make the most of your experience"
Learning From Our Mistakes
Nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes.
But the most important thing from these mistakes is to learn from each experience and better ourselves as a result.
Click below to follow Georgia's journey to development and the mistakes she made along the way. After all, when we know better, we can do better; so here we are!