Voluntourism is an industry that I am certainly not innocent of being seduced by. After spending a summer volunteering at a Roman Villa, I found myself trapsing through volunteer websites researching where I could make a difference. “I’m going to save the children!” I thought, “I’m going to get a nobel peace prize!”… I kid. Actually, my original thoughts were something along the lines of “well if I’m going to go to Peru anyway I might as well do something helpful” and “I need some work experience for my PGCE, so teaching in a school sounds like a good idea”.
Although I had an inevitably romanticised vision in my head, I was always realistic about it. I didn’t know much about the pros and cons of volunteering, but there was something fishy about certain companies that even my uneducated self could see was not all that charitable. “Free volunteer parties and salsa classes!” (who was funding that?), “Help children!” (where? With what charity or local organisation?”, “Teach English!” (with what experience or qualifications?). These companies asked for thousands of pounds, so I looked for one where I could at least get an actual official breakdown of where my money would go. I opted for Globalteer as they did just that (right down to how much they spent on office supplies), and their long application gave me a sense that they were actually concerned about the reasons people wanted to volunteer for them.
Throughout the 6 months that followed awareness of voluntourism had picked up some pace, and I was worried I’d fallen into a trap. In the end I do believe the charity I chose to volunteer with were good, and were actually benefiting the community and children they worked with, but that didn’t mean I came out of it wide eyed and proud of my totally selfless and humanitarian experience. I have said before and I will say it again: it was an awesome experience for me, but not because I think I totally changed lives/the world. I’m going to elaborate on this in seperate posts, but for now here are links to my reflections at the time of my volunteering: