Voluntourism is a concept that is catching up fast with people from around the world and they are willing to spend money and time on volunteering for the under privileged. Voluntourism has the potential to create an interdependent world which contributes in the collective development of the lower developed regions. It has the potential to create global citizens and not simply as the after effect of globalization but as a part of responsible travel. Voluntourism catalyzes the debate around responsible tourism v/s luxurious traveling.
This concept, although gaining momentum, has come under a lot of scrutiny because of its supposed unethical practices. The task at hand is to tap the best out of this growing phenomenon and let all parties gain the maximum benefit out of it.
The mantra of “Give the most, Get the most” is best suited for voluntourism. Voluntourism has received a lot of flak from several quarters due to its “tourism” aspect but then what is volunteering without getting to travel in the country and making an effort to understand its culture. Luxury travel is different from traveling with a purpose of understanding the region that one has gone to spend weeks in for volunteering, and which is why equating luxury travel with “voluntouring” is completely uncalled for.
Voluntourism is primarily based on the following three mantras:
1. Spending money and more importantly time for the needy ones across the globe
2. Living in a different culture devoid of the luxury and comfort of home
3. Traveling or sightseeing in the country that a volunteer is in, in order to explore its culture, tradition, history and people.
Voluntourism is NOT about:
1. Clicking selfies with the needy
2. Propagating the “savior” image
3. Traveling luxuriously and exotically in the name of volunteering abroad
It is easy to find faults with voluntouring but it is a difficult task to contribute towards the greater good of the society in these times of rampant consumerism. Voluntouring is one such amalgamation of philanthropy and consumerism that it caters to the needy, the aspiring travelers and people willing to invest time for others. It is true that volunteering abroad for shorter durations cannot make a gargantuan impact but at least it kick starts the culture of taking out time and spending money for the needy all over the world. Of all things, the least of which we have is time and if people are willing to give time and work towards the upliftment of the under privileged, it is indeed a giant leap for humanitarianism.
A simple argument against the ones questioning the ethics of voluntourism and calling it a photography fad or a pseudo-savior fad is that why would any thinking person spend thousands of dollars just to click pictures or travel without the luxuries of a five star hotel? This is an imprudent and imbecilic judgment against a rapidly growing and thriving industry.
Voluntourism has many pros and the cons can be easily dealt with awareness. Some of the benefits apart from the usual ones:
1. Interaction between people coming from different cultural backgrounds, ethnicity and linguistic identities which contributes in making of a Global Citizen.
2. People from the downtrodden background cannot simply afford to travel and voluntourists coming in with their distinct culture and experiences give the natives a feeling of traveling.
3. The volunteering programs of educating the children, empowering the women folk, wildlife conservation contributes considerably in the betterment of the underdeveloped and developing regions.
4. Interaction of volunteers from various backgrounds hones adaptability and inter-personal skills of the volunteers.
5. Voluntourism also contributes to the economy of the region in which the volunteers are going in large numbers.
Thus, it can be safely concluded that voluntourism has a benign purpose and there are more pros to it than cons. The hosts always gain from the exercise rather than being projected as the “glorified subaltern”, which is an incorrect opinion that the critics of voluntourism hold.