When you think you’ve seen and heard it all, something unique comes along and rocks your world a little bit. Voluntourism isn’t new to the world, but it is spreading like wildfire. People all over the world are getting in on the action of voluntourism. The gist of voluntourism is when someone takes their talents and applies it to a charitable, educational, or some other type of activity. While people do this in their own community all the time, tourists are not doing this while traveling. How cool is that?
We first caught wind of it when we were on our honeymoon. The trend was just developing in 2011, but even popular all-inclusive resorts offered guests the opportunity to volunteer while traveling. St. Lucia was just hit hard by the previous hurricane season and tourists would dedicate their time and talent to the disaster relief. From repairing roadways to helping communities that had an AIDS epidemic – there was something for anyone willing to dedicate their time and talent.
On the surface, volunteerism is a fantastic idea. Once you start to research a bit deeper, there are many things you need to know before signing up to volunteer.
Voluntourism: What You Need To Know
You will find that people who are interested in voluntourism aren’t just doing it for 1 or 2 days, it’s becoming a several week or moth long adventure. If you’re looking into voluntourism, just know that there are needs that have no bias on time. Whatever amount of time you can give is always welcome. The awesome thing about volunteerism is you get to vacation and give back at the same time. Plus, you’re interacting with the local culture.
Pros Of Voluntourism
When you’re looking into voluntourism, there are a lot of pros. When a person is considering giving up their time and talents they should always look at the pros and cons. There are a lot of positives to being a tourist and giving your time. Many travelers love coming back with a full heart, knowing they could do something for others.
Exploring A New Destination
Participating in voluntourism in another country gives you a chance to explore. Exploring is a vital part of traveling. Giving your time and talents will get you into the best parts of a new country or city. You’ll be able to see the real parts of the country and not just the tourist parts.
You’ll meet families with children and eat the regional cuisine as well. Voluntourism lets you truly emerge into the culture that you cannot do from just visiting a resort.
When you’re a tourist, you don’t always get the a real sense of the culture and it can be hard to learn. However, voluntourism is a great way to really understand a culture and it’s a fabulous way to learn. Getting a chance to rub shoulders with someone of a different culture is exciting. You’ll leave feeling humbled and blessed.
Voluntourism is oftentimes criticized because tourists want to leave feeling that way. It puts your own life into perspective.
Fill A Gap
Some people use voluntourism as a way to fill a time gap. A college student may use a year to explore voluntourism. Giving their time and talents helps them grow and learn in ways they never thought possible. During this time, it’s important that the volunteer be serious about giving their time.
You can build homes, teach English classes, clean up an area that’s been hit by a natural disaster or serve food to those who need it.
Cons of Voluntourism
Anything in life can produce a “con.” You know, not everything is as it seems. Even voluntourism can have a downside. Check out some of the cons to voluntourism.
One con of voluntourism is that you never know what you’re getting into. An opportunity can look amazing overseas, but once you get there is can be not what you expected at all. You want to use a big organization or resort that offers a day trip to volunteer.
Going In With The Wrong Idea
Some people who are participating in voluntourism may not have the right idea of what voluntourism is. It’s important that anyone who does voluntourism knows what they’re getting themselves into.
This recent article from the NY Times discusses the dilemma of volunteers working in a community and the people becoming dependent. Instead of trying to develop, some areas know that they can depend on the constant stream of volunteers that come through.
Specifically, this can have harmful effects on children who are impressionable and left with the wrong impression. Orphans never have a consistent connection to the same person or they are left abandoned after attaching to a stranger. That’s something to consider when you’re deciding on the type of work you want to do.
It happens from time to time, even though no one wants to admit it. However, it’s possible to hook up with a bad company in the world of voluntourism. Make sure you’re working with a legit organization.
Volunteer In The Bahamas and Caribbean
One popular place to do voluntourism is in the Bahamas and Caribbean. With it’s close proximity to the United States, American tourists don’t have to spend as much money to volunteer. Big name resorts are even offering guests the option to volunteer for a few hours on their vacation. The Cruise lines haven’t jumped on the trend yet, but I’m sure it’s in the near future.
The weather is favorable there and, sadly, there is always a need for help with the yearly hurricane season.
Go Overseas is a popular program that let’s you apply to opportunities in the Bahamas and Caribbean. Volunteering abroad will allow you to see vacation destinations in a whole new light.
VolunTourism.org lists various opportunities that you can sign up or inquire more information about. You can pick from worldwide destinations that are in need.