Voluntourism: Creating Opportunities for Meaningful Travel


With the new semester well under way and the depths of winter bringing about grey days, students may already be considering their plans for summer intersession. We certainly wouldn’t blame you if they included a warmer climate. For students seeking travel with a greater purpose and cultural connection, volunteering abroad presents a unique opportunity.

There are varying degrees of voluntourism, a term that has recently been targeted by critics of international development. There’s no foul in a humble act of volunteering a special skillset but it’s imperative that participants carefully vet prospective organizations. Students studying technical disciplines make especially great candidates for voluntouring. Moreover, it provides an opportunity to build experience, and explore areas of further career specialization or academic research.

Tips for responsible volutourism:

  • Sustainability: is the project/organization executed by locals?
  • Esure your presence isn’t reverse outsourcing.’ For example, performing manual labor may result in fewer jobs for local construction workers.
  • What tangible skills are can you contribute?
  • Are you prepared to deal with culture shock?
  • Do you have realistic expectations of a voluntour experience?

Voluntouring doesn’t have to be an international pursuit. Organizations such as Frontiers Foundation run programs right here in Canada.

Learn more about it here!

Article author: Jenn Larsen

Photo Credit: http://www.seeds.is/pictures-iceland/236

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