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Voluntourism means to combine your passion for traveling (tourism) while giving back to the countries you visit (volunteer)...
Voluntourism means to combine your passion for traveling (tourism) while giving back to the countries you visit (volunteer). It's a great way to lend volunteer organizations a hand and give them financial support. It is especially suitable for short-term volunteer holidays. Most volunteer tourism programs have a limited social impact when compared to long-term volunteer opportunities.
Voluntourism opportunities are perfect for you if you want to volunteer and travel in an exotic country. It means you won't be working full time during your holiday giving you a lot of time to explore a new culture. Sign up for a volunteer tourism program!
Do you dream of backpacking through some of the most remote places abroad but somehow feel as if it’s not enough? Do you want to do more than that? Do you want to connect
to the communities and help?
If you are interested in volunteering abroad and you have already done some research on the topic, you might have come across the term “Voluntourism”. It simply describes
“tourism in which travelers do voluntary work to help communities or the environment in the places they are visiting”, but in the past years, there has been a lot of
discussion about the pros and cons of voluntourism abroad.
At Volunteer World, we believe that if done right, volunteering tourism opportunities overseas can benefit both the volunteers and the projects they visit and work for.
As this is an important and very sensitive topic, we want to show you
what’s important when it comes to ethical voluntourism
and how we ensure that the volunteer abroad programs on our website match the criteria and that there are no issues with volunteering.
If you are interested in combining your travels with volunteer work abroad, just continue reading
What is the difference between Volunteering and Voluntourism?
The emphasis of most of our projects is on volunteering and dedicating time to a volunteer abroad project and its progress. We cater to a very wide audience and also offer
voluntourism packages which we believe are sustainable. Although the latter has been subject to controversy, we guarantee that all programs offered through our website
meet strict requirements. It still remains important for volunteers to do their due diligence and research the project they are interested in. To give you
a better understanding of volunteerism and voluntourism, take a look at the descriptions below:
Let’s start by taking a closer look at what we understand under volunteerism:
It’s about helping out a certain project usually for a longer period of time.
Volunteers offer a certain type of expertise which the project is lacking.
There are opportunities to explore the surroundings and do some sightseeing but it’s not the main aim of the time spent there.
Projects impact the local community and environment and are making a difference in the field they are focused on: childcare, animals, community development projects,
Projects are usually run by non-profit organizations that ensure funds go toward the community or are reinvested in the organization.
With voluntourism or volunteering tourism, things are slightly different.
First of all, the emphasis is on the experience of the participant volunteer tourist.
The goal is for the participant to travel and see as much as possible of a certain area while spending a short period of time contributing to a certain cause.
Voluntourism packages are sometimes offered by for-profit organizations. This may result in funds going toward the tourism industry rather than the local community
although this isn’t always the case. (Volunteers need to inform themselves about this before signing up).
Anyone can join a project and no expertise is required.
This may help you decide what type of project and types of voluntourism you would like to participate in. There is no right or wrong when it comes to this. Both options have their place when done right.
The Pros and Cons of Voluntourism
Voluntourism has gotten a bad reputation over the past few years with articles appearing claiming more harm than good is being done. Especially when it comes to working with
children. Let’s not forget that the intention of participants is to help and is intrinsically good. Some volunteers don’t have the time to contribute for several months but
are looking for an opportunity to help where they can.
Although there seems to be an increased desire to help and contribute by those more fortunate, it’s not easy for organizations to create opportunities to fulfill this need
of helping out and linking it to work that would make a meaningful and sustainable difference.
Here are a few of the pros and cons that you need to take into account when opting for a program:
Allows you to travel and discover a part of the world you have wanted to explore.
You get the chance to connect with the local community.
Participants will see a different side of their travel destination than if they would travel as a tourist.
It is a great opportunity for cultural interchange.
You will travel in a group and meet other like-minded individuals.
Given you are participating in an ethical project, funds and efforts will be invested in the community.
The time spent on the program is limited which may not lead to significant changes.
It is possible that the funds go toward the tourism industry instead of the community when you choose the wrong organization. It’s important to do your due diligence on this.
When working with children, it can be hard on them when volunteering for only short periods. Exposing vulnerable children to inexperienced volunteers can have a negative impact.
Why opt for Voluntourism?
As with all good things, there’s always going to be a downside when projects are not executed properly. Voluntourism has taken a few blows the past few years,
with people saying there have been issues with volunteering tourism. It has endured
claims that it is harming the community and is mainly focused on the participants.
First of all, let’s keep in mind there will always be naysayers that will point out that voluntary work in developing countries is condescending and not solving problems
in a sustainable manner. Although there may be some truth in these acclamations, keep in mind that all of this rises and falls with the execution of the projects.
Imagine the following scenario: you have decided to tour around India for 3 weeks and will contribute to the community by teaching at schools and building houses for a couple of days during your stay.
Will you be making a difference?
It’s fair to state that you won’t be making as big of a difference when you choose to volunteer for short stints as opposed to long periods of time.
Packages offered by a reputable international organization will make sure that money paid by voluntourists (volunteer tourists) will be contributed to local communities and that work done
is useful to the community. (Beware of organizations that don’t have the best interest of the community at heart). The most important thing that will happen during a
program is cultural interchange and social contact. Everyone will agree that social interaction is crucial in a happy life and is something everyone benefits from.
Volunteer tourists have the best intentions and are looking for ways to contribute despite time constraints. For volunteer tourists, it’s important to keep in mind
that volunteer tourism comes in many shapes and forms so it’s their responsibility to look for projects they fully support.
Is volunteering in developing countries condescending?
There are claims that if you volunteer overseas that you’re portraying a message that these communities are unable to solve problems on their own. This mainly
refers to programs that aren’t addressing the root problem and are exploiting both the community as the volunteers for personal gains. The goal of voluntourism
projects should always be to empower local communities and give them the support they need to take their future into their own hands. Claiming that there’s no
need for any help in developing countries would also be incorrect. Again, it is a matter of joining a reputable organization that understands the needs of the
community and is dedicated to helping the community progress.
Although the time may be short, that doesn’t mean the interaction is meaningless. As a voluntourist overseas, you will gain a deeper understanding
of what is going on in the part of the world you are visiting. You will carry this awareness with you and share it with others. Awareness moves people to
behave differently and make different choices. Even if voluntourism doesn’t have a direct impact, it will have an impact nonetheless perhaps further down the road. Whether it is a unique
connection you have with one of the locals, a message that you were able to bring across during an English class or a mind-shift you made after the experience
which changes the way you stand in life.
What kind of Voluntourism projects are there?
The point of voluntourism is that you get to see as much of a country as possible while you volunteer for a certain cause during your trip.
There are so many possibilities available that it will come down to where you want to go and what skills you have to offer
Here are some possibilities that are available:
Work at an animal conservation center or sanctuary
Cultural immersion programs
There are so many types of voluntourism, it’s a matter of preference and skills that will determine where you will end up for your adventure.
Volunteering tourism is on the uprise which means more and more projects are appearing in the social landscape. Volunteer tourists will have increasingly more
options but will face the challenge of selecting meaningful and sustainable projects.
How to choose the right Voluntourism program?
The most important aspect of choosing a great program is that you do enough research on the different volunteer and travel organizations and try to answer the following
What does the organization stand for?
What is their objective and how are they trying to achieve it?
How are the funds they receive spent?
How do you think you will contribute?
What do you think the effect will be of your voluntourism work?
Take into account possible negative effects. Read up on the organization, read reviews and ask previous volunteers about their participation. There are some great agencies
and non-profit organizations that are doing very responsible and good work.
Be careful when you choose to volunteer with children. Do your due diligence prior to signing up. There are organizations out there that are doing more
harm than good. It’s important to take into account that we have attempted to screen these organizations but you make the final call. Choose wisely and you will be in
for an incredible experience while supporting a meaningful cause.
Best places for Voluntourism
Voluntourists that have
on their list, will find several opportunities to volunteer and travel on the website.
are Latin American destinations that are available to those who are passionate about this warm culture. Those who want to get off the beaten track, can opt for a program
with the Bedouins in the desert or head up to
to discover the Nordic wilderness. There are plenty of opportunities to discover some of the greatest parts of the world while you leave an impression on the local community
and help where you can. Volunteer tourists will find several types of voluntourism which will make their hearts beat faster.
Top 5 benefits of Voluntourism
It’s hard to name drawbacks when talking about travel and volunteering overseas even if it’s for a short period of time. It’s almost always associated with feelings of positivity. Both travel and volunteering
allow people to get out of their usual environment and open up to new experiences. Volunteer and travel and you will be helping the communities of your travel destination.
Let’s take a look at some other benefits voluntourism may have in store for you:
1. Valuable Learning Opportunities
Choosing to volunteer and travel will open up a new world.
You will learn about the country and culture and interact with the local community.
This will ensure a deeper understanding of the people and their situation. Depending on your volunteer activities, you will gain valuable insights in teaching and other
activities. Learn some new skills and witness the opportunities that will unfold. Whether it's for valuable work experience or a way to spend your gap year. Meaningful travel
opportunities await you.
2. Meet new people
You will meet other volunteers and travelers who share your taste in activities and interests. You’ll be connecting with like-minded fellow volunteers and of course locals.
This will be a wonderful opportunity for meaningful relationships and cultural interchange. Meet other volunteering tourists that share your love for travel and value for
giving back to the community.
3. New Experiences
This is a brilliant way to expand your perspective on life. Issues that seemed huge problems before, may seem trivial after your volunteer experience. New life experiences make
you stronger and will empower you for the future. Voluntourism is a great way to experiment and see if volunteering is something you’d like to do more of in the future.
4. Health Improvements
Traveling and volunteering are two ingredients that practically guarantee happiness.
Research has proven that traveling is beneficial as it puts people in a completely different environment allowing different parts of the brain to be used.
Nature, which is usually a big part of going on a trip, is a wonderful healer for those under a lot of pressure and suffering from stress. On top of that, providing some kind
of support, however small, will give you a sense a purpose which is a major happiness influencer. Happy people tend to be healthy people. Volunteer and travel and notice the
effects it has on you!
This is your chance to explore and discover some of the most interesting places the world has to offer.
You’ll be doing this while contributing to a meaningful cause.
What are you waiting for? Get out your luggage and start packing for your adventure abroad as a volunteer tourist!
How do I get started as a Voluntourism Volunteer?
You’re ready to start your voluntourism adventure but you’re not quite sure where to start? First of all, have a look at the different programs across the globe, and pick a
few that have caught your attention.
Once you’ve done that, let’s take a look at the first 3 steps which will send you on your way to do voluntourism abroad:
Check whether there’s a match between you and the voluntourism project by looking at their requirements.
Take a look at the location of the project and decide whether it would be a location you are excited about.
Get in touch with the organization and see whether your expectations and your schedule match up.
Once this is sorted. Let’s take a look at the practical steps:
Insurance (Health & travel)
We recommend getting both health and travel insurance. In fact, this is even a requirement for all volunteer programs abroad. Get in touch with your program
contact person to find out if an insurance plan is already in place for volunteers.
Visa, passport, and documentation
Once you know your destination, take the following 3 steps before setting off on your life-changing adventure!
Look into the visa requirements for the country you will volunteer in.
Make sure you have a valid passport considering the requirement of the host country.
Make sure you prepare the correct documents to fulfill the visa application
That’s it! You’re ready to explore the world and start your own personal voluntourism adventure. Get ready for a life-changing experience that no school
can ever prepare you for. Africa, Asia, and Latin America are waiting for your support. Discover what these projects have in store for you. We believe it will
open you up to many more volunteering adventures in the future.