For those of you who paid a substantial amount of money to work in a Cambodian orphanage, or paint a school inSouth Africaon your gap year this may be a hard pill to swallow.
Voluntourism is a developing craze that has worryingly experienced a meteoric rise in popularity over the past decade, and understandably so as more and more people are gaining access to a wealth of opportunities to ‘make a difference’ to the lives of those less privileged.
Although to some it may seem tempting to hand over hundreds, if not thousands of pounds to assist in an impoverished community, better your life experiences, and let’s be honest your CV, it is important to take a step back and consider how much good is actually going to come from your brief act of compassion.
Unfortunately it is often the case that those paying to help do more harm than good; the mundane labour is drawn out to fit into what ever time period has been paid for, and is often undertaken solely by unskilled volunteers.
Common sense should tell us that the building could be done in half the time and to a much higher spec by local craftsmen who would relish such an opportunity. Orphanages present an all together different sort of problem, volunteers are encouraged to form individual bonds with the children, before then deserting them a week or two later with the naïve assumption that they have had a positive impact on their lives.
Recent studies have revealed that most of the 12,000 children in Cambodia’s orphanages are, in fact, not orphans and are instead pawns in elaborate money making schemes designed to guilt trip volunteers into giving yet more money.
I am not in any way condemning the act of volunteering, and there are plenty of companies that are genuinely improving the lives of the people that they work with, all I would say is before you hand over your money do your homework, decide who is really benefitting from your charity, and be socially aware.
Your actions in fact could have a negative impact on the lives of those that you are trying to help.