A common argument against volunteering trips overseas is that they are too short – you come in, then you leave, and what happens after that? And have you really gained any genuine cross-cultural learnings from say, a 2 week trip overseas?
In my opinion, short term voluntourism can still have great value to all involved, but it is dependent on a few things:
- The program itself – does it proactively seek to promote cross-cultural understanding and connections? Does it have clear achievable goals in regards to the volunteering? Has it really connected with the community?
- The participants – are they open-minded? Are they coming in with an attitude that they are there to help someone else, or are they willing to learn from the community itself (aka do they have humility to say they don’t have all the answers).
- Training – has any training/induction been offered to participants – the volunteers and those participating from the host community?
Similarly, if the above things are not considered for long-term voluntourism stints, it can not only be without value for the parties involved, but can in fact be unhelpful and create longer term problems.
For some more reading, try this article. I like the suggestion that for someone who has never been overseas, perhaps shorter trips could be a useful introduction and would help to build up their experience for longer term ones.
What are your thoughts? I’d be interested to hear your stories of both short and long term volunteer trips.
Previous posts in the Voluntourism Series:
Voluntourism Part 7: Volunteering, Voluntourism and Tourism – what’s the difference and does it matter?
Voluntourism Part 6: And now for some positives
Voluntourism Part 5: The economics of voluntourism
Voluntourism Part 4b: As I was saying…
Voluntourism Part 4: “Us” vs. “Them”
Voluntourism Part 3: Who benefits?
Voluntourism Part 2: Who? Why?
Voluntourism Part 1: What is it?