Voluntourism

By Vilhelm Stokstad – Volunteering is the new backpacking. A wish to get out of the touristy areas and experience genuine culture. By helping you get a context and a reason to be there. But if you go on an arranged volunteering trip without consideration and thought, a well established ”we and them” thinking can easily increase the social, cultural and economical gap rather than decrease it. This gets even more evident when the, in relation, extremely wealthy volunteers – a volunteering trip often costs several years of annual income in the country you visit – stays in guarded compounds, sometimes with their own chef and maid, to only do daily visits to the real world outside, to help ”them”. Working as a volunteer could be a more sustainable way to travel than, for example, charter and backpacking. There are a plethora of companies, organizations and agencies that offer volunteer travel in different forms. Some are good, but many are not sustainable and some are downright counter-productive because of the way they work and act against the local community. If the volunteer stays in a nice house it can be assumed that a smaller portion of the money goes to charity. A Swedish agency says for example that up to $160 goes to the local project you are working on – it’s not even a tenth of the total sum paid for a 4-week volunteer program. There is a lot of partying, safaris and other tourist activities offered to the volunteers.