Wrote this one yesterday, fine-tuned today. Enjoy guys!
It’s a very rare sight for me to be angered, let alone outraged on a Sunday. Yes you heard that right folks! I’m angered on a Sunday. It’s a day for peace and tranquillity, a time to reflect on the week before and look forward to the week ahead; not to be fuelled with opinionated thoughts on a sub sequential topic that I thought need not be discussed.
What’s the topic in question you ask?
‘Volunteerism is a waste of time and money’
Before we get into this I would just like to add, I’ve never volunteered myself. This is coming solely from research gained from others and at no point did I mean for this to come out biased, I hope it hasn’t come out biased as I felt I’ve kept both argument’s fair. If it has come out biased though and unfortunately offended you, I sincerely apologise as that wasn’t my true intentions.
It’s a controversial one for me; one I didn’t even know was controversial in fact. You hear the word volunteer and something in your mind just clicks; you automatically assume it’s going to be a story or a gesture of good will. To be volunteering and helping out others for reasons other than financial profit is amazing; you tend to assume everything around it’s going to be right as rain.
Well what I’ve learned is this fact may not be so true, there’s a deep and almost monstrous shadow cast over the act of volunteering or volunteerism as it’s commonly known.
It’s hard to do this one without coming from a biased stand point. I feel as if my minds already made up from my previous experiences and knowledge about volunteering itself. I’m going to try and put both arguments across for you guys so you can make up your own judgement but be warned the article that unintentionally angered me may cause some knock on affects to you! You think you can handle this? Ready? Okay…Let’s go!
What is ‘voluntourism?’
First I should give you some background information about volunteerism so you’re not coming in empty handed. Essentially it’s a form of tourism in which travellers participate in voluntary work, typically for a charity. Yeah I got that from Google, don’t hate! But it sounds pretty good, right? Who doesn’t want to travel across the globe helping others and gaining multiple life experiences money can’t buy! The chance to experience the gratefulness of a gesture of good will, the chance to give to those less fortunate and know you’ve helped their life whether it’s substantial or not! It sounds perfect doesn’t it? The truth is not all think so.
I figure there’s only one easy way to do this; most of my readers will have already guessed where this is going. It’s those beautiful things we call lists, better yet a list of the pros and cons to volunteerism, sit back and relish in my bullet pointed wonder and then judge for yourself!
- Tourism! It’s in the name people, need I say more? You can visit exotic locations throughout your travels, admittedly it may not be all the time however there are a few places you can visit giving you that well needed break from helping others and just live, experience life as you should. There’s a true beauty in that.
- Knowing you’ve helped out. Obviously you’re not going to be superman to the entire country or town however there can be a real sense of achievement knowing you’ve made someone’s quality of life better or just improved how they feel, you know what I mean? I’m not a huge charitable guy but on nights out if there’s a homeless person begging for food and money I always go and get them a burger; it’s a 99p burger. Why should we suffer and starve for our most essential quality of life? It’s a necessity to eat and replenish ourselves yet we still have people who go without, it’s truly shocking. Off topic I know but it needed to be said. So basically the whole point is just gaining the sense of accomplishment within one’s self and knowing you’ve actually helped out another person’s life can make it all that worthwhile.
- You get to take a break from the stress of ‘home-life.’ From what I’ve read a lot of the people who’ve voyaged on the task of volunteerism have done this on a gap year or taken a break from home life, it gets you away from all the negativity of what you have to deal with and lets you see the world in a completely different perspective, it really shows you how lucky we are at times. We complain about the minutest of things; being too cold, waiting for food at a restaurant or not having enough money you know, silly things. Truth is most of these are easy to deal with or just pointless to complain about but volunteering to help others where people are struggling and really have nothing and I mean nothing, can give you an intense perspective on the spectrum of reality.
- You take home an education of different cultures. You can gain this eye-opening experience on how others eat, live and congregate with each other. It’s a perfect way to break from that usual routine of life; you know the one 9-5 Monday to Friday or study, study, study. With volunteerism you get the opportunity to break that cycle and relish within another world and experience their routines.
- The country or place where you’re visiting gets an influx of your specific skill sets or knowledge into certain topics. I hope that makes sense, you would tell me if it didn’t right? What I’m trying to put across is the place you’re visiting can gain your knowledge to benefit them for future reference or you can teach them skills or tips to benefit in their daily lives.
- You get this cross between cultures within the community. They get insights into how you lead your life and then you get insights on how they lead their lives. It promotes a whole new social aspect to volunteerism and benefits both parties involved.
- In some cases there’s been a lot less time for the tourism aspect of actually going out there, what’s happened before is some people have travelled to these exotic locations but have fell short where work is the main priority. They had no chance to get out and sight-see which is a main part of ‘volun’ The work eventually ended up taking over and all that money spent on flights out there and places to stay haven’t been worth it, sure you get to meet new people and get to help out but you’re completely missing out on the goal of also tourism itself. You need some ‘me’ time as well, otherwise it’s very similar to your situation at home where you’re constantly working however this time you’re emotional aspect can come into play as well and you don’t benefit in the long run.
- In some cases voluntourism itself actually affects the lives of others, not for good though for bad, let me explain; when multiple organisations after organisations comes into these countries or towns what actually happens is, it puts local trade out of business. When you have hundreds of tourists coming in to say donate clothes, build support systems or erect buildings for free the local business men and women then have no one to offer their services to. It puts the local tradesmen and women out of work thus not actually helping the community itself almost damaging it in a way. Sure you can argue the case of the tourists helping out the smaller proportion of the community but wouldn’t you rather help out all the community. By employing the local businessmen and women to do the same work the tourists do for free surely it benefits both parties. It can swing both ways though that one, you see why it gets a bit controversial?
- This next point is more defined rather than surveying the whole aspect of volunteerism; it’s aimed at helping in orphanages. Let’s face it working in an orphanage, from an outsiders perspective seems a daunting and emotional challenge. It’s high-rewarding but it can be very life changing in certain ways. At this point I’m wondering if this could actually go in both sections but I’ll decide to leave it here for now. So, when an orphan has lost their mother, father or even both and has no one to bond with, it’s got to be emotionally terrible. I can only image the pain and trauma they must go through. In some cases what’s so controversial about helping out at an orphanage is, when you make these deep connected bonds with the children it can have knock on effects. Say you’re visiting an orphanage for 3 weeks, you meet all these lovely children and connect with them, after those 3 weeks are finished you leave and you feel fantastic. The problem it can cause is the child’s now been left alone yet again, a friend torn from them and a bond broken. It can be disastrous for how they’re feeling and unfortunately the bond you’ve created shattered and they can then go through a variety of emotions; they feel angered, sad it’s not fair on the child.
- Like I said though it’s not all bad. It can go both ways, some orphans may enjoy the company; they may enjoy the companionship and feel as if they have a friend anywhere in the world. It just has to be judged with the child’s interest first, not the volunteers!
Controversial, am I right?
In no way do I want this post to knock the wonderful act of volunteering or in fact even halter anyone from going. As I said previously it’s quite hard to judge as I’m not speaking from experience and at times almost coming from a biased perspective, I never intended to do that. I wanted both sides to have an equal argument where the reader can make up their mind.
In my personal opinion:
Carry on, but and that’s a big BUT, there needs to be more rules and guidelines for doing so. Let’s face it, who’s interest do you have at heart, yours and your egos or the people you intend to help? If it’s yours I feel you need to change that, sure it’s nice to get a sense of accomplishment but if you’re solely going there for that purpose it’s a problem. If you’re going there to gain a sense of experience, accomplishment and actually help out then by all means go for it.
There’s huge potential for volunteerism to benefit those who’re less fortunate than us, I really mean that. But as we speak now, I can only wonder is it more about being self-indulgent or is it more about helping others. Until you do some research for yourself into the area you’re travelling to or understand the local culture it’s hard to tell.
You can’t forget you’re a tourist as well; you need a break every now and then. You can’t go all through life being nice and then take nothing for yourself, you deserve a treat. Go visit the hotspots, go see the sights and enjoy yourself.
The one and final point I wish to repeat is I’ve never volunteered myself. This is coming solely from research gained from others and at no point did I mean for this to come out biased, if it has and the post itself has unfortunately offended you, I apologise. As I said, I think it’s a wonderful idea that we should all embrace but we need to look at the system and how it’s run. That being said can you take my point and respect it even though I’ve not actually tried it for myself? It’s down to you to make that call.
What are your thoughts on voluntourism/volunteerism?
Enjoy your day!