Discussion Articles


Learning service as an effective alternative to voluntourism

  • By Amanda
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“Maybe I’d like it there if I was volunteering in an orphanage and got to play with the kids.”


I slapped my hands over my face, shaking my head. I’ve been living in Cambodia for over three months now and probably haven’t been Skyping my best friend back home as much as I should, but I couldn’t believe she still had no idea what I was actually doing here.


Work-mode took over and I began spitting out numbers like, in Cambodia over 75% of the children in orphanages aren’t actually orphans at all and even though the number of orphans is decreasing the number of orphanages is increasing with the rate of tourism. I explained how visiting and volunteering at orphanages can perpetuate child exploitation.


“I didn’t know that,” was all she said after I’d finished my spiel.


Had my friend acted on her desire to volunteer, not just at an orphanage but anywhere, she’d be bombarded with an overwhelming number of options, good and bad. When you’re surrounded by talk on development and the effects of volunteering it’s easy to forget run-of-the-mill voluntourism projects can be indistinguishable from programs making sustainable contributions to those hearing about it for the first time. Even though I know spending a week painting a classroom will unlikely make any kind of difference in the local community my friend may see it as an excellent opportunity to “give-back”.


– See more at: http://www.whydev.org/learning-services-alternatives-to-voluntourism/#sthash.n9eJrJfL.dpuf

  • Amie – Go Ethically

    I have the same problem, meeting uninformed people interested in spending time in an orphanage. Little do they know, their good intentions are more harmful than it would appear. Excellent work. It’s encouraging to know we can change the minds of people considering investing their time or money in harmful institutions.

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