Sunday, June 26, 2016

Volunteer Tourism: Doing More Harm Than Good?

Given that various “damning reports” had been published about the negative impact of volunteer tourism since 2010, is volunteer tourism doing more harm than good to the world’s poorest people?

By: Ringo Bones 

Ever since those various damning reports on the negative impact of negative tourism had been published since 2010 about upper middle class tourists from relatively well-off countries paying travel agencies to help orphans in various poorest regions of the world has been compared to Friedrich Nietzsche’s proverbial “Road to Hell” – i.e. such schemes are actually doing more harm than good. In a nutshell, well-intentioned westerners do little to alleviate the lot of poverty-stricken children in developing countries. This issue got the spotlight of the world’s biggest news providers because volunteer tourism is the fastest growing sector of the global tourism industry since the beginning of the 21st Century. 

Even though various medical volunteering schemes have been deemed the ones that do the most good in providing basic healthcare to poverty-stricken children in developing countries whose public health systems can barely cope to provide basic services to their own needy citizens, well-off upper middle class tourists paying a volunteer tourism company in order to work as an entry level carpenter or building painter in constructing new school buildings of the developing countries remote hinterlands are actually depriving local carpenters, painters and other local artisans of much needed jobs. Worse still, it also perpetuates the “White Anglo Saxon Jesus Syndrome” especially in developing countries that are used to be colonies of formerly “staunchly Christian” world powers like Spain, England or Portugal during the last couple of centuries. 

Is volunteer tourism really comparable to Friedrich Nietzsche’s proverbial “Road to Hell”? Well, various studies done on the subject of philanthropy still shows that that various philanthropic organizations that hire professionals that are specially trained to provide help to needy kids and the poorest citizens of developing nations are the ones that can actually do the most good. Just remember that whenever you feel that do good to feel good aspect of altruism, you and the world’s needy are better off for you just donating money to mainstream charitable institutions like Oxfam.