“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” -M.L. King
First, let’s differentiate volunteering vs voluntourism. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, volunteerism is the act or practice of doing volunteer work in a community service. On the other hand, voluntourism is the act or practice of doing volunteer work in the community where one is vacationing. Pretty awesome, right? It’s like having the best of both worlds, you spending a vacation in another country while still fulfilling your obligation as a philanthropist; or simply just a person who wants to make the most of his time. Volunteering and voluntourism are often use interchangeably, though they differ in a way. In volunteering, your primary reason for traveling is to do volunteer works. It’s clear from the beginning that you are visiting another country to render help or service. What the place and the people can offer you in return is only a bonus. In voluntourism, the main purpose is to travel for vacation and then do volunteer works on the side. Either way, you get to experience a lot of things when you do volunteer works.
What volunteering vs voluntourism actually do to the community?
In life, especially to the poorest of the poor, a little help from others can produce empirical changes. Volunteering does not necessary mean handing monetary help. It can be in a form of sharing skills and knowledge. You can teach certain groups of people in a given community how to communicate better in English, or teach the basics of computer. The skills they acquire can be used to improve themselves and their community.
Volunteering also opens the community to the world. Let them know that they are part of a bigger social order. That they are heard, loved, and of equal importance. In the best of conditions, the connection of volunteer to the community strengthens the bond that we are all human and that our shared aims vastly outweigh our differences.
What volunteering and voluntourism do to the volunteer?
The benefits to the volunteers are tantamount or even higher to the host community. As cliché as it sounds, the more you give, the more you receive. Joining volunteer works will make you realize that the person who benefits the most is you. It’s tempting to think that you are the hope of the hopeless and less fortunate, but the truth is they give you hope. They give you more reasons to celebrate life.
Volunteering provides you the fulfillment of one’s altruism. It satisfies yourself to make a difference by serving the needy. You get to improve your knowledge and skills by simple applying it to the community. It develops your situational creativity and problem-solving skills. You know what they say, experience is the best teacher. You’ll never realize how good you are at something unless you experience challenges because of lack of necessary resources. Your critical thinking skills sharpen when face with tough tasks.
An immersive volunteer experience can develop your emotional intelligence that is critical to self-actualization and understanding inner growth. It shifts your perspective on the world. You’ll realize that immersing with these people removes away the assumptions and stereotyping. Working closely together with the locals in immensely different socioeconomic and cultural circumstances can widen your ability to see not only of the region where you serve but also of the world.
Volunteering and voluntourism are great ways to spend your precious time. However, you should also be mindful of both the positive and negative effects it might bring to the community and the organization. For one, money can be corrupted or use to projects that address the wrong needs and divert resources from where it should be allocated.
Organizations that facilitate volunteer works sometimes unintentionally lure those people who are only after to impress. You know, volunteers may often use their volunteer works to make their CVs look impressive to have leverage over others. Social status and recognition oftentimes defeat the primary purpose of why things are done. In fact, some of the volunteers signed up not knowing what to do in the field. There are many unprepared and untrained volunteers that lack the necessary skills. With these, the host community suffers.