Questioning Volunteerism

I have this thing about volunteerism.

You know, the type of tourism where people spend amazing amounts of money to go to a foreign country and volunteer for minimal amounts of time in order to do good.

The thing is that I really, REALLY dislike it. To the point that I am one of those people who will tear up posters on my faculty’s notice board that say stuff like “ Volunteer in Ecuador: Spend two weeks rafting , surfing and playing with poor children to make yourself feel good while not actually teaching them anything useful and probably leaving them psychologically scared” . (Actually, they don’t really say that but maybe they should).

So I was (in a very cynical and slightly weird way) delighted to find this in depth story on Al Jazeera that takes a critical look at Volunteerism in Cambodia. For all those who are planning on volunteering abroad, know people that are or are curious about the workings of international aid this is a must see:

Cambodia’s Orphan Business

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Sarah is a 4th year student of Global Resource Systems at the University of British Columbia. Her blog posts are aimed to make people reflect and think about how intricately our lives are intertwined with the lives of everybody,everywhere.

2 Responses to “Questioning Volunteerism”

  1. Ritika Rakshit (@ritikaaaaar)

    I completely, completely agree with you.

    Thanks for the link!

  2. Kyuwon Kim

    Thanks for the link, this is alarming.

    While I do agree with you that voluntourism can often do more harm then good, I still think that it can be an enriching experience for both the community and the volunteer. Last summer I volunteered in Cambodia. I was fortunate enough to have a contact for a grassroots NGO through a friend (I didn’t have to go through a big middle man company). I volunteered with Raise and Support the Poor ( which is a local charity started by a monk who basically built the only school in this town. I learned a lot and I still keep in touch with the the monk. My big advice is to try to contact the grassroots organizations on your own rather than going through a volunteer-coordinating-company.

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