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Seek meaningful volunteer opportunities, don’t fall victim to voluntourism

Before taking a plane trip to a developing country, know whether you are a voluntourist or volunteer

Lucy Sandeen

Before taking a plane trip to a developing country, know whether you are a voluntourist or volunteer

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The concept of voluntourism, while relatively new to the minds of most students, is age-old. “Voluntourism,” per Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is the act or practice of doing volunteer work as needed in the community where one is vacationing. In public places like the workplace and schools, people seem to believe that they are able to seamlessly combine the fruits of vacation with the dedication of volunteer work, ultimately forming a best-of-both-worlds scenario for world travelers.

Fortunate students, like students from SPA, often take advantage of “voluntourism” during seasonal breaks from school and even long weekends, often traveling to developing countries such as Nigeria and Nicaragua in order to help communities by building houses or schools, engaging with the community, and donating old supplies to residents, all while exploring what foreign nation have to offer. Conceptually, there seems to be no problem with partaking in these adventures, but realistically, it is impossible to successfully balance each scenario.

Ironically, the formal dictionary definition accentuates the balancing problem the term creates in teenaged environments. More often than not, students travel to developing countries on vacation, and while they are there, they choose to volunteer in the community as part of their vacation experience rather than as a specific reason for travel.

The reason for volunteering should be geared towards helping these people; prioritize and genuinely care about the work, rather than for a résumé booster or an Instagram post.”

Yes, any sort of volunteering is by all means appropriate and valuable to people in harsh environments, but the reason for volunteering should be geared towards helping these people; prioritize and genuinely care about the work, rather than for a résumé booster or an Instagram post. In order for the experience to be as valuable as possible, students and faculty of institutions such as SPA should plan trips to global south nations with either the sole intention of volunteering to improve communities, or at the very least, come with a detailed and specific plan on how to make the most of the experience.

By being American and attending a school with wealthy students such as SPA, “voluntourists” have ample resources to make the most of the trip simply by being surrounded by a developed and advanced society that is at risk to falling into the marketing trap that is voluntourism. Choosing one of vacationing and volunteering is vital and necessary prior to making the trip. The impact Americans have on the lives of impoverished people on developing countries requires undivided attention and trying to split that attention in two should not be an option. If you are searching for travel opportunities, keep in mind the difference between being a voluntourist and a volunteer.

 

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About the Contributors
Andrew Johnson, The Rubicon Sports Editor
Andrew Johnson is The Rubicon‘s Sports Editor for the 2017-18 school year. Andrew is a junior and has been a hardworking member of The Rubicon staff since his freshman year of high school. Apart from his work on staff, he can be found playing basketball and baseball at the varsity level. While he spends most of his free...
Lucy Sandeen, The Rubicon Opinions Editor
Lucy Sandeen is The Rubicon’s opinions editor for the 2017-2018 school year. While the junior has only been a part of The Rubicon since the second half of her sophomore year, she’s thrilled to be a part of the Rubicon community. Lucy enjoys staying up too late, reading, watching the movies Heathers and Stand by...
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