Voluntourism In South East Asia
Updated: Feb 2
If our hopes of building a better and safer world are to become more than wishful thinking, we will need the engagement of volunteers more than ever. Kofi Annan
Travelling will provide different opportunities for volunteer work depending on the outcome you are seeking. This could be while #backpacking to a certain area, long-term as a side project whilst living abroad or the sole focus of your adventures.
Whether to volunteer is a very personal thing. If you do decide to embrace the idea of volunteering, it does have a way of reducing the likelihood of homesickness as it causes you to adapt quickly to your surroundings, introduces you to people of a similar nature and allows you to feel a part of something positive.
Volunteering has become somewhat of a modern-day travelling phenomenon. #Volunteering can certainly be a practical and rewarding way to feel at home whilst on the road. There is always an element of concern for the fear of being homesick. This can be a risk when embarking on your first solo journey.
The idea of volunteering whilst travelling is that it not only relieves homesick feelings but that it provides the individual with a sense of purpose. Good volunteer opportunities consider both the local culture & the individual volunteer. Opportunities should aim to benefit the wider community, help should be freely given and address environmental, human and social concerns in an ethical way.
The phrase #Voluntourism has recently emerged due to the substantial number of organisations who sadly take advantage of unsuspecting tourists due to the increasing number of tourists who are placed in short-term volunteer #projects.
Unfortunately, most short-term volunteer projects can have a negative outcome for the volunteer, primarily due to the mismanagement of donated funds, the psychological damage that orphanage tourism provides to children and carers and the lack of preparation for the role that the volunteer is expected to provide.
#Volunteering requires research and with the right organisation the community will build positive relationships and develop a suitable plan for the required projects.
What is one example of a poor volunteer opportunity?
One example to consider is the concept of orphanage tourism. This often means short and unplanned day visits to local #orphanages where donations are collected, and children do not receive a long-term benefit. Orphanages should request that photos with children are limited and that individual gifts are not permitted.
Orphanages should not have an open-door policy or charge visiting fees. An organisation should implement child safe practices and travellers need to ask into what #opportunities the centre might have and then consider asking where their funding will be allocated.
Children are incredibly vulnerable in situations where tourists frequently come and go so it is important to remember what your intentions are when adding an orphanage visit to your travel plans. Consider purchasing #educational or medical supplies as a donation instead of gifting money and aim to work with other volunteers on a project that is sustainable such as building a new roof or supplying the centre with clean drinking water.
Part of building the relationship with the wider community is asking questions about the organisation's current needs so donations are used appropriately.
What is one example of a good volunteer opportunity?
One example of good volunteering is also a popular one; teaching. Teaching English is highly beneficial to the local community. If you are passionate about educating the next generation; teaching is a very rewarding, positive and challenging way to be purposeful on your travels.
Consider the places you are looking at volunteering for and ask yourself some of the volunteering principles that are listed below. Many travellers that you meet at hostels, airports or even out at a local bar will be volunteering in the local community, so don’t be afraid to raise topics of conversation.
Teaching plans should be organised according to the previous volunteers work and follow on so that the children are continually developing their education and not repeating the same lessons. Books and basic supplies should be provided, or funds should be given to cover these costs if you make any donation it should be in the form of purchasing supplies instead of directly donating cash.
Lessons should have a time frame and be in the best interest of the child, structured to reflect any other normal educational setting where students can participate and concentrate. Work as a team with the other volunteers where possible. Teachers should always be supervised by an organisational staff member especially when working with young children.
5 Quick volunteer facts:
#1 The work needs to have a positive outcome for the community
#2 Give your time willingly as volunteering is a choice and should be done with enthusiasm
#3 Volunteers should not present a threat or intimidate local employees
#4 The work should address environmental, human and social factors
#5 The work should be culturally suitable for the location of the community
Even though volunteer tourists have the best intentions and want nothing but to help the children who are living in such conditions it is crucial to do your research and think about the bigger picture. Tourists are contributing to an ongoing cycle of poverty, corruption and misplace aid by 'helping' out at local orphanages with no child protection regulations in their organisation.
Things to consider:
Money [commercialisation of children/tourist scams/corruption]
Resources [basics such as clean water, food, hygiene, clothing & school books should be provided to children living in care facilities]
For Profit Orphanages [created as a business that is poorly managed with no background checks or child protection framework that charge a fee to volunteer]
Child Welfare [separation from family, developmental delays, exploitation, risk of trafficking]
Purpose [are you doing more harm than good working with children at an orphanage?]
Volunteering abroad can bring incredible rewards to both you and the community through the sharing of skills and the compassion you show one another. Volunteering is all about humility and growth. Your heart will be left in many places at the end of your travels.
Say No to #orphanagetourism and be a responsible volunteer advocate. Together we can make a difference! Have you volunteered at an orphanage? I would value your insights and experience! Please share your comments with our readers.