What is Voluntourism?

  • Voluntourism means volunteering your time, skills, and energy with an organization, issue, or causes to help make a difference in communities around the world as part of your vacation package.
  • “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Gandhi

Voluntourism is a new way of traveling that is becoming increasing popular around the world. Voluntourism is when people volunteer overseas while they travel. It is similar to “eco-tourism” in a way, because the objective of improving lives is still present. But unlike eco-tourism, voluntourism is aimed at helping other people rather than helping the environment. Voluntourism involves tourists going on vacation or rather, missions to help out on a particular project.

This volunteer work overseas entails not only the duties a volunteer will do, but it is also gives a chance for tourists to discover new places, experience a foreign culture, and learn more about people in other countries. The time spent becomes an exciting and fulfilling vacation because you get to immerse yourself in another world while helping out those in need.

Doing voluntary work overseas is very different from the typical idea of a “relaxing” or “sightseeing” vacation which is in fact very artificial and does not allow you to really engage with the people in the country you are visiting and to form relationships with them as other human beings. In a sense, that sort of trip is more like taking a long trip to a human zoo to look at people and things rather than to live and be with them as one people.

Volunteer travel is a lot more sustainable as well because it deviates from the typical indulgent vacation. In voluntourism, you get to be responsible for the growth and change of others which is an experience unlike any other. This makes your trip to another country worth so much more than just “having fun” the whole time.

One thing that is clear is that going abroad and giving money and gifts to strangers, even if you do it from a place of love and with the best intentions, may not actually be helping them.

Ultimately, volunteering abroad is a rewarding, worthwhile activity. Your hard work and dedication in making a change in the world will touch lives – not least, your own.

Volunteer’s Bill of Rights and Responsibilities

Your rights

  1. The right to feel safe
  2. The right to information, training, and supervision for your volunteer role or project
  3. The right to feel valued by asking questions and offering constructive feedback
  4. The right to negotiate your volunteer role
  5. The right to leave at any time

Your responsibilities

  1. The responsibility to communicate your needs
    1. Communicate, communicate, communicate
    2. If you don’t feel well, you aren’t comfortable, you are not getting the experience you would like to have, or you don’t understand something, please communicate.
    3. Don’t assume anything. Communicate what you need: we can’t know your needs unless you communicate them.
  2. The responsibility to follow through on your obligations
    1. Help improve the reputation of volunteers worldwide by doing what you say you’ll do, whether it’s honoring the volunteer role and schedule you’ve agreed to, show up ready work, provide notice if you will be unable to perform your tasks, saying no or stepping away from volunteering when necessary, or simply serving as a good representative of World Ventures in the community.
  3. The responsibility not to promise what you can’t deliver
    1. This is very important in the world of voluntourism because it is fairly easy to unintentionally promise too much when one is excited about making a difference. This is particularly important when interacting with vulnerable populations like children. We want to avoid hurting the reputation of the organization we are serving with as well as World Ventures and certainly we don’t want to hurt the trust of those that we serving. This is important for your experience and benefits those to come.
    2. HYPOTHETICAL: Say you have spent a day working with some little children and one of them in particular has touched your heart. Before you leave you promise her you’ll bring a gift when you return.
      1) Tomorrow comes and you forget, or your plans change and you don’t go back. How does this affect the little girl? How does it reflect on you, the organization you are serving with, World Ventures, and the country you come from?
      2) You decide that she could use cheering up so you buy a few things or select something from among your personal belongings to gift. When you return to her you call her over and all the other little children follow because they were up all night dreaming with her of all the things you might bring the next day. You give her the gift, she gives you a hug and runs off followed by a pack of other children and some adults. What lesson do you think you taught her? What impact to you think you made on the other children and people in her village? You wanted to really help her, but will the impact of your gift be both positive and lasting or short lived with potentially more negative effects than positive?
  4. The responsibility to honor the organization’s investment in you
    1. World Ventures is investing a lot in you and your voluntourism experience, as is the hosting organization. You must always strive to represent these organizations to the best of your ability and respect any policies or procedures they inform you of throughout your voluntourism experience to insure the best possible results.
    2. If paperwork is needed to be signed or filled out, make sure you take care of these things before your volunteer work begins (Code of Ethics, Confidentiality Agreement, release forms, etc.)
    3. As a generality, anything worth doing is worth doing well. If it was worth flying across the world to experience it’s worth your time and effort to perform your volunteer service well and fully.
  5. The responsibility to take care of yourself
    1. It is the responsibility of each individual to make sure that you don’t overextend yourself, burn out, or cause yourself physical, mental, or emotional harm by taking on roles that aren’t a good fit or that you are not prepared for. We will strive to provide opportunities that fit the full spectrum of abilities and skills whereby ensuring everyone is able to help to the extent that they feel comfortable and useful. We will set realistic goals for accomplishment while maintaining appropriate levels and opportunities for fun and breaks.