28 October 2014

The anti-voluntourism calls just got a bit louder

Just when it seemed like the voluntourism debated stalled, in comes Mark Watson and his organization Tourism Concern. He is the latest to argue the problem with unskilled international volunteering. From his interview with the Independent:
"Volunteers often have unfulfilling and disappointing experiences; volunteer placements can prevent local workers from getting much-needed jobs; hard-pressed institutions waste time looking after them and money upgrading facilities; and abused or abandoned children form emotional attachments to the visitors, who increase their trauma by disappearing back home after a few weeks,” Mr Watson said. 
“We feel that there are many opportunities for people to undertake meaningful volunteering in their own community, where they will receive proper training, support and supervision – without the need to pay a tour operator for the privilege. In the majority of cases people would be far better (and have a more rewarding experience) volunteering at home and spending their money on travelling and staying in places listed in our Ethical Travel Guide,” he added.
I tend to fall in with the group that is mostly pessimistic about voluntourism. However, people want to travel to see the world and do something good in the process. Rather than shun such good intentions, the challenge for the voluntourism industry is to responsibly channel such desires. The challenge for news media is to responsibly cover the industry.