“World-savers”, “Change-makers”, “Petting zoos”, “Unskilled labour” are just some of the terms that have been passed around in recent years when talking about volunteers and their work. There has been much heated debate, with a growing number of travellers and industry professionals are becoming increasingly sceptical of this blend of altruism and travel.
One frequently expressed concern in the volunteer travel and placements industry is that well-meaning volunteers are consistently being allocated tasks or positions that they are neither trained nor suitable for. Not only does this make it less likely that the volunteer will be able to make a valuable contribution, but it can also be inappropriate if there is a local staff member that is more qualified for the position.
Along with this mismatch of volunteers and placements, concerns are also raised over the time, energy, and resources it takes an organization to host volunteers, which can detract from its ultimate goals. Too often an overwhelming amount of emphasis is being placed on the volunteer’s desires, and getting more people to pay for the experience rather than the value they bring to their placement or community.
So can the voluntourism’s wrongs ever be made right?
PEPY Tours is starting a global conversation to bring the benefit of LEARNING to the forefront of volunteer travel, and embrace the idea that we must LEARN before we can effectively SERVE. We are starting with a set of guidelines that can help travelers to make responsible choices that bring benefit to both themselves and the communities they interact with. In that way, they can make better choices about how they give their time and money in the future, and have a better understanding about the complexity of development work.
Organizing a development education trip abroad or planning a voluntourism trip can be really tricky if you aren’t sure of the questions to ask or problems you should look out for. These guidelines are designed to help people who are looking to travel with an impact, create the best experience for everyone involved, with lots of advice on questions to ask and points to consider. For those volunteers that have already made the choice or begun their placement, we’ve also created a ‘Volunteer’s Charter’ that will assist the volunteers and their chosen organization to get the most of their time together.
If you are considering going abroad to learn or to serve, are already in your placement, or run a company connecting volunteers with host organizations, please take a few moments to read through these guidelines, and if you know any other budding world-travellers, please pass them along! We hope you find them useful, and please don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any feedback.