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Volunteer Trips That Work

Posted by mikeonpurpose on June 10, 2010

An article from the CNN web site discusses what to look for in finding a voluntourism operator.  The article raises a lot of excellent points, including this one about setting expectations:

“You’re not going to change the world in a week or two. You’re not going to eradicate poverty in a village. You’re not going to teach a kid how to read,” said Doug Cutchins, a former Peace Corps volunteer and co-author of “Volunteer Vacations: Short-term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others.”

The key to having a positive impact in a short amount of time is realizing that your efforts are part of a process, Cutchins said. Results are subtle and come about slowly through a long line of volunteers.

In my view, the best and most reputable voluntourism operators look at their roles not as being outside saviors who come into a developing country to tell the locals what needs to be done; rather, they partner with local groups who have determined their own needs and have organized themselves in order to pursue their own struggles.  In the latter case, volunteers act to assist and support what is already in progress.  Voluntourism is at its best, in my opinion, when it is at least partly about assisting  local communities in its own struggles, and partly about making connections and bridging cultural boundaries.

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