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#iamthiscommunity

You might have seen the #iamthiscommunity hashtag pop up in social media outlets lately and are wondering what its’ all about. Or perhaps you’ve wandered over to this Page regardless if you’ve seen this hashtag or not. So, what is the meaning of this challenge?

To showcase your community

Where you live brings up a certain imagery and connections. Warmth. Excitement. Frustration (yes, even that). It’s the place you call home. But your community is unique. The location. Climate. Food. Events. Attractions. Volunteering opportunities.* It doesn’t stop there. There is another meaning to this challenge…

To feature traveled to volunteer communities

When volunteers travel they become part of the community they volunteer in. Through this type of engagement, they leave a lasting imprint to remain indefinitely part of that community. As a result, both residents and traveling volunteers can say #iamthiscommunity due to their collective connection to the place.

We want to focus on “all things great” about your place of residence, and the communities you’ve traveled to volunteer. A chance to brag! BUT particularly on local volunteering opportunities for travelers to consider AND volunteer experiences you had when you traveled. So, how do I participate?

Through social media outlets

Your community 

  1. Log into your Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter accounts. (Actually, log into each one and do this for all of your social media outlets!).
  2. Choose picture(s) that represents your community. Is it that waterfall that you all hike to and recommend others to join in? How about that bustling downtown core? What about a walk around the block from your house? Or that image of that scrumptious dessert you had at your favorite foodie location?
  3. Upload and tag it with: #iamthiscommunity #(your city/town/village/area) #(your country), #thetravelingvolunteer
  4. Explain why you chose your picture(s). Don’t forget this part!
  5. Tag @thetravelingvolunteer (Facebook); @travelingvolunteer (Instagram); @TheTravelingVo1 (Twitter); AND your friends!

*Your community’s volunteering opportunities

  1. Same as above.
  2. Choose picture(s) that represent your favorite local volunteering opportunity. Is it your local animal shelter? What about a unique hands on experience with a cultural group only available in your community? Or connecting with local community members through beach cleanups or forest restoration?
  3. Upload and tag it with: #iamthiscommunity #(your city/town/village/area) #(your country), #thetravelingvolunteer #(the organisation) #(theme of organisation)
  4. Explain why you chose your picture(s). Don’t forget this part because The Traveling Volunteer will be choosing volunteer opportunities for travelers from this list!!
  5. Tag @thetravelingvolunteer (Facebook); @travelingvolunteer (Instagram); @TheTravelingVo1 (Twitter); @(your volunteering opportunity name/group/nonprofit); AND your friends!

Your traveling to volunteer community

  1. Same as above.
  2. Choose picture(s) that represented your traveling to volunteer experience. Who did you meet? What did you do? Tell us all about it.
  3. Same as above.
  4. Same as above.
  5. Same as above.

WHEW! You might not be able to showcase a traveling to volunteer opportunity if you have never been, just post pictures of your community. This is fine! However, we are also encouraging people to post local volunteering opportunities for travelers, and traveling to volunteer experiences where you can.

Continue to check back often as we will be developing this campaign as time goes on. I hear there might be some merchandise in the works…! JOIN IN, you just might get a picture featured and a shoutout to your Page or Profile or Account!

 

 

 

 

Labels: Is There Really a “Best” Traveling Volunteer?

Voluntourist, volunteer tourist, digital nomad volunteer, volunteers who travel, international volunteer, the traveling volunteer, paid-to-volunteer-experience-when-traveling, finding a free- place- to-live-in-a foreign-community-while volunteering adventurer, and the list goes on. There are so many terms to describe the person volunteering outside their home-front, and within this activity, so many elements attached to it such as: length of time, cost, skills needed (or not) and what project(s) to volunteer for. However, there is another topic lurking within this mainstream societal topic that should be addressed.

Is there a “best” traveling volunteer?

I think most people would agree, to be known as a Peace Corps volunteer, for example, is a good thing! They have historically provided a valuable service to the community so their reputation is well deserved. But what about the one time event volunteer, such as the beach-cleaner-upper? The travellers that “only” spend an afternoon outside their vacation time to volunteer to clean up a local beach over-run by trash? Is their contribution to the destination community less valuable than work of their Peace Corps friends? Typically this type of minimal volunteering or what I call “soft volunteering” on a predominately tourism-focused trip is viewed as less worthy. But why?

Contemporary society says there’s a “best” and labels all such activities.

Last fall I wrote a blog post about various terms (labels) to describe the activity of traveling to volunteer and if any one of these labels really matters to the general public. Then, now months later, it appears it still does. The term voluntourism, for example, has a stigma associated with it and is labelled as bad. On a recent discussion board, in a free-accommodation-for-volunteering-site, a poster said they were not a voluntourism site because they only featured volunteering opportunities that provided free accommodation. After some reflection I replied – a volunteering opportunity with free accommodation does not necessarily mean it is better.

I say a “best” depends on community impact.

 Oh I agree. To spend a large sum of money to essentially pad a sending organisation’s pockets is not what I support. I recognise (and support) community projects that utilise long term skilled volunteers and agree with the same discussion-board-poster who implored people should not be “paying for a poverty experience.” Many labels have been rightfully applied to many organisations because of how they’ve conducted themselves and exploited marginalised communities. But by applying a mismatched or ill-informed label on an entire group of volunteers unfortunately cheapens the effort of a traveling volunteer’s community give-back based on the negative activities of some. This is not doing us (common planet dwellers) any good. So, what is a solution?

The “best” traveling volunteer is well-informed and participates in dialogue.

Being an educated and dialogue-seeking individual may be a flippant answer to what is a “best” traveling volunteer… but, I cannot get away from the importance of this. If people, whether traveling solo to volunteer or in groups, armed themselves with more information about, for example, accessible community reports that show objectives met by the sending organisation, understanding the cultural context in which they will be working with, or creating a dialogue with community members once in (and out of) country, I believe this will change popular media’s labelling of traveling volunteer activity as “all things bad.” How? Because active engagement between all traveling volunteer players (community, organisation and volunteers) will ultimately focus on the most important recipients (and drivers) of any development project: the community.

I believe the traveling volunteer has the power to change current negative labelling through the purposeful actions they take before, during, and after a volunteering experience. Ultimately it is what the traveling volunteer chooses to call out, focus on, and move forward with that will change the narrative.

Will you be that “best” traveling volunteer?

*Featured image by Jazael Melgoza (Venture With Impact)

Skilled Traveling Volunteers: Does It Really Matter?

Not long ago I had a conversation with an individual who was thinking about traveling to volunteer. They were struggling with elements related to this activity, such as, how much money it would cost; the necessary time off from work; and what skills (if any) would be required. Although the conservation varied, the discussion tended to stay focused on the topic of skills-based volunteering. Many questions emerged. Should they consider utilising their skills, or would a great attitude be enough? Do community projects really need skilled volunteers, or does it really matter? While there may be some merits associated with needed unskilled labor in some contexts, such as clearing trash from ocean-side beaches, according to academic research, skills-based volunteering does matter. Here are top four reasons why.

Satisfied Volunteers. Traveling volunteers who are skill-matched with a community project tend to be more satisfied overall with the volunteering experience than those who are not matched because they expect their skills will meet specific project objectives. When project objectives are met, they likely feel a sense of satisfaction because their work made a difference to the community. On the other hand, take for example, a volunteer who is expected to work on a construction project when they do not have the skill set to do so. As a result, a build might take longer than necessary (or in extreme cases, aspects needed to be redone), produce higher costs (if walls need to be repainted for example, then more product needs to be purchased), leading to volunteer (and community) dissatisfaction with the process. For skilled volunteers and unskilled volunteers, satisfaction/dissatisfaction levels tend to appear on opposite sides of the satisfaction spectrum. Skilled volunteers are also likely to become repeat volunteers, which most likely leads to sustainable community development.

MangoTreePermacultureClassroomBrandon (1)
Hives For Haiti: Mango Tree Permaculture Class

Build Capital and Lessen Dependence. Highly skilled traveling volunteers are effective at building local and organisational capacity, producing noticeable social capital, and creating community partnerships. Projects utilising expert volunteers leans toward being community driven, meaning the community has had input into the type of project needing expert foreign volunteers. In addition, expert volunteers may find themselves as catalysts for partnership development between community-driven projects. Due to skilled volunteers contributing to local capacity and social capital building, community partnerships have the potential to create community empowerment. An empowered community may, in turn, stop long-term colonial-like dependency on foreign assistance.

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Venture With Impact

Development Outcomes. Clearly defined project objectives and measurable goals should be accessible for skilled volunteers, so they can make knowledgeable decisions about who they may volunteer with, and where the activity takes place. Accountability and transparency of project reporting tends to be linked with specific development outcomes and highly desired skilled-to-project-matched volunteers. Simply said, skilled volunteers are one of many driving forces in keeping an organisation accountable for development in a foreign community. Skilled traveling volunteers also have the propensity to be interested in understanding individual community member perspectives on how a project, for example, is personally impacting them. Project organisers understand skilled volunteer interest in community voices and respond with reporting community member impact stories.

GarryTrainingCanada
Hives For Haiti: Garry Training

Sustainable Program Development. Sustainable development is much more than a green thinking type of development, it is, according to a popular featured in the 1987 Brundtland Report, “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” When traveling volunteers offer their skills to a community, they are not only impacting the current generation of community members but future generations. Skilled-to-project matched volunteers tend be part of the sustainability thinking group. They not only base their decisions on the transparency of development outcomes, but look for projects that are mindful of social, economic, and environmental sustainable community impacts. Project creators/managers who desire these sustainably-minded-skilled volunteers, consider these criteria when developing a project. As a result, the community benefits not only from sustainably-driven volunteers, but the subsequent program is developed with sustainability objectives in mind.

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Venture With Impact: Lisbon by Joel Filipe

It is apparent skilled traveling volunteers, matched with projects that support these skills, makes the most sense for community development. Not only are skilled volunteers more satisfied with their experience, but projects, developed with skilled based volunteers in mind, have the tendency to build social capital and lessen community dependency on foreign assistance. Skilled volunteers also have powerful influence over sustainable project development outcomes for current, and future, community members. After all, people who decide to volunteer nationally or internationally, want to know they actually made a difference in that community. What better way, than to use their skills to do so.

*Article first appeared May 1, 2019 on Venture With Impact website.

Brundtland, G., Khalid, M., Agnelli, S., Al-Athel, S., Chidzero, B., Fadika, L., … & Singh, M. (1987). Our common future (\’brundtland report\’).

Hernandez‐Maskivker, G., Lapointe, D., & Aquino, R. (2018). The impact of volunteer tourism on local communities: A managerial perspective. International Journal of Tourism Research20(5), 650-659.

Knollenberg, W., McGehee, N. G., Boley, B. B., & Clemmons, D. (2014). Motivation-based transformative learning and potential volunteer tourists: Facilitating more sustainable outcomes. Journal of Sustainable Tourism22(6), 922-941.

Lough, B. J., & Oppenheim, W. (2017). Revisiting reciprocity in international volunteering. Progress in Development Studies17(3), 197-213.

Lough, B. J., & Tiessen, R. (2018). How do international volunteering characteristics influence outcomes? Perspectives from partner organizations. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations29(1), 104-118.

Perold, H., Graham, L. A., Mavungu, E. M., Cronin, K., Muchemwa, L., & Lough, B. J. (2013). The colonial legacy of international voluntary service. Community Development Journal48(2), 179-196.

Thomas, R., & Long, J. (2001). Tourism and economic regeneration: the role of skills development. International Journal of Tourism Research3(3), 229-240.

 

So You Want to Travel to Volunteer? Be a Sustainably-minded Decision-maker Before You Go*

Traveling to volunteer has had a lot of press coverage lately, but unfortunately most of it focuses on the negative impacts of this activity. Critics suggest traveling to volunteer (also known as volunteer tourism or voluntourism) can, for example, promote White Saviour thinking or mismatched projects that are not sustainable. However it does not have to be this way! To avoid negative consequences related to travel volunteering, volunteer tourists should become sustainably-minded decision-makers before making any commitments to go. Here are four top considerations to think about.

Personality traits and motivation. Prior to proceeding with a favourite project, travel volunteers should examine what personality traits they possess, and question how these traits might behave in a traveling to volunteer setting. How outgoing am I? Am I flexible? Can I be calm if a situation becomes unruly? If you think you are easily stressed by day-to-day living, you might need to examine how you might act if challenged in a foreign context. In addition to understanding your personality traits, you should decipher what is motivating you to go and whether the particular journey is well-aligned with this motive, or whether a different one might be more appropriate. Some popular motives to volunteer outside of one’s community include wanting to experience a new culture, adding to a resume, and giving back to society.

Skill to project matching. While thoughtfully reflecting on personality traits and motives for going, volunteer tourists should seek organisations that intentionally match volunteers’ skills with community projects. This is important to understand because program to skill matched volunteers are likely to be repeat volunteers, which can lead to sustainable community impacts. In 2017 I spent just over 5 weeks researching the US based nonprofit Daraja Music Initiative that focuses on music and conservation education with select Moshi, Tanzanian youth each summer. This organisation, like many others, is a good example of a sending entity that intentionally seeks skilled volunteers to match their community initiative. As a result, not only do multiple passionate volunteers return each year, but deep relational community bonds have been formed.

Local community collaboration. It is not enough to find a skill-to-project matched opportunity, a pre-trip volunteer should understand how the organisation (who is featuring the opportunity) works with the local community. Who, for example, is leading the project? Is it community run, or internationally driven? In addition, is the organisation partnering and collaborating with other community organisations, and/or international agencies or working independently to push their own agenda? Collaboration generates knowledge through the process of group interaction and shared problem solving. It is one key concept of sustainability.

Objectives, measurements and reports. The traveling volunteer who is a sustainably-minded decision-maker, looks for organisational projects that have clearly defined project objectives, measurable objectives, and if past project reports are available for viewing. In other words, does the organisation’s website feature project impacts, and if so, how were they measured? It is important to keep in mind any project reports or informational updates on websites should include impact stories from community members’ perspectives as well.

Once one considers these different elements, one is in a better position to assess which alternative, if any, is most appropriate. Although it may seem somewhat anticlimactic to suggest, sometimes the best option is to stay home and look for other ways to support a community project, such as volunteering online or close to home.

*Blog post taken from December 2018 article in Green Living Arizona magazine

 

Not Only #GivingTuesday But Any Day of the Year

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We all know that volunteers are one of the most selflessly-giving individuals in the community. Many programs or various organisational entities would not exist if it were not for the countless volunteer hours of service or direct financial support provided by these community members. While there are the traditional ways to donate one’s time and money to a worthy cause (such as physically showing up or directly donating money), there are others that can be considered too. Here are some ideas on how you can participate in, or volunteer for, a local, national or international worthy community project any day of the year.

Volunteer Online. Many people do not have the time, resources, or physical capabilities to hop on a plane and volunteer in a foreign community. But, they have a volunteer’s heart!  Here’s where the possibility of volunteering online for a national, or international project might fit in. You need not have a computer either. Some opportunities ask for a phone connection, and then the rest is worked out between you and your intended volunteering organisation.

Sponsor a Volunteer. Let’s face it, many traveling to volunteer experiences cost a lot of money. Not only are people freely giving of their time and money, but they likely are paying to volunteer.  As a friend, co-worker, or family member, you could directly support a loved one or friend by sponsoring their desire to travel to volunteer. This just might be the perfect Christmas or holiday gift!

Buy Goods That Give Money Back to Charity. Buying a gift that advertises some proceeds will be going to charity, is an indirect way to support a charitable cause without giving directly. However, do your homework. Be aware of the difference between how much is actually being donated and what might be a clever marketing ploy. As a savvy shopper, perhaps it might be better to just give directly to the charity instead.

Employer-matching or Support Programs. Your employer might be one of the businesses that match donation dollars to your favourite charity. Perhaps they might sponsor you, as their employee, going overseas to participate in a community cause? Or possibly they are like Tourism Cares, the philanthropic arm of the tourism industry, that creates “give back” projects for their employees to volunteer with? If so, you are one lucky employee! If you represent a business, maybe it’s time you considered matching employee charitable donations, or supporting an employee’s desire to travel to volunteer for a worthy community project.

 

Black Friday, Wish Lists, and Volunteer Travel

jeff-sheldon-3232-unsplashPhoto by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

The week will feature one of the most well-known events a lot of US families look forward to all year. That being,…Black Friday. Of course Thanksgiving itself (now only two days away!) is a much loved family-celebratory-day-of thanks. But, for some, this ushers in the beginning of mega-sales and abundant shopping trips. Regardless if you participate in Black Friday shopping or not, most people will find themselves needing to purchase a wished-for gift for a special someone at some point in the next few weeks. Being #prepared as a volunteer traveler includes having desired items packed to keep your comfort level high and your sanity intact.

Referring to websites, and results from our Facebook Page poll, here is a list of items travelers may be wanting, along with example products provided. Disclaimer: we do not receive compensation for any items purchased through this blog post. In addition, this is a sample list. There are items and categories not mentioned but will be added in future posts.

Luggage, containers, and more. Before you purchase anything, you should consider the receptacle that will hold your stuff. Especially if you are taking only a carry-on bag. There are countless options out there that will hold everything from your small toiletries to packing cubes for your t-shirts and jeans.

Clothing-type Items. Have you thought about packing a towel that dries quickly and is a personal luxury in that far-from home volunteer space? What about shoes that take up little space and are very comfortable? These are examples of clothing-type items that people should consider when packing their bags. Popular categories, according to our Facebook poll respondents, also includes weather appropriate clothing, and apparel that will with-stand a natured-based volunteering experience.

Entertainment. Both enroute and at your destination, there are items you will want to take with you to keep you entertained. A book, a note-pad, a small card game, or coloring book will go far as you spend time whittling hours away in airports, airplanes, and nights in destination accommodations where Internet access might be limited. Noise-reducing ear-buds, headphones, and other tech-related gadgets are a welcome addition to any traveler’s wish list!

Food. Are you vegan, have specific food allergies, or simply would like to be #prepared by having familiar foods on hand to assist you with the introduction to unfamiliar cultural food. When I travelled to Tanzania last summer, I packed food-related items such as protein powder mixes, almond milk, and a small blender, to create breakfast smoothies that helped keep my digestive tract happy in a foreign environment.

Camera. Last but not least, you’ll want to ensure you snap all those treasured photos with a camera that suits your photography experience and matches your budget. Many travelers are, for example, using smartphones to capture breath-taking images with add-on trendsetting equipment. Others prefer to use a more traditional camera that can be grabbed at a moment’s notice without having to take a non-international compatible personal camera phone as well.

 

Caravan of Migrants: Volunteer’s Heart, Assumptions, and Safety

Today’s news networks continue to feature information and debates about the large caravan of migrants slowly making their way to the U.S. border from the South (primarily from Honduras). Reasons for their plight include the continued risk of life-long poverty, corruption, and gang violence in their native land. While this topic might be uncomfortable to talk about, and at first glance does not seem to be related to the subject of traveling to volunteer, I believe there are 3 nuggets of truth traveling volunteers should think about that relate to this news event.

Volunteer’s Heart

Contrary to popular belief, Americans (traveling or at home) are not the only volunteers helping their fellow earth-dwellers. Volunteer nurses and doctors in Mexico, for example, have been selflessly exhausting their time and resources to assist families and individuals facing health crisis’ due to marching towards the USA. But. Hey (you might be thinking)! I’ve travelled to volunteer in Mexico to assist Mexican communities X, Y, and Z before. How is it they have resources, time, and energy to give to others when they need help themselves? After all, we took suitcases full of clothes, medical supplies and books to support them. While there might be all sorts of reasons why there are supplies and medical personnel available, the simple answer might be because these are generous-spirited Mexicans who have a volunteer’s heart!

Noted by last week’s guest blogger Nathanael Olsen, a GREAT volunteer has passion and enthusiasm, is good at communicating and interacting with others, and very flexible in terms of getting a job done. We can say inside a GREAT volunteer beats a volunteer’s heart! Medical volunteers in PIJIJIAPAN, Mexico, possibly needing outside assistance for their own families yet readily available to medically assist with migrant’s needs, are volunteering because of their passion to serve others, ability to interact with people regardless of who they are, and the flexibility to get a humanitarian crisis job addressed. You who travel to volunteer most likely already have a volunteer’s heart and this will contribute to a powerful transformative experience for you, the community you will serve in and the one you call home.

Assumptions

Who has had a bad case of assumptions? All (honest) hands go up! I know I have. I’ve assumed someone was talking negatively about me behind my back, I’ve assumed I knew what parenting was like before I had children, and sigh, I assumed the Arizona Cardinals (for those who don’t know, this is Phoenix’s football team) could not possibly play any worse now than they did last season. Well, I’ve used too much energy assuming and quite frankly have been very wrong multiple times. The problem with assumptions is you make generalisations about things or people that may not true because they are not based on actual facts. Referring back to the example of migrants from Honduras making their way to the USA. I can assume I understand why people would risk their lives to trek 1000 miles to a border that may not receive. I can assume I understand what a community is like because I researched them prior to traveling to volunteer. But us traveling volunteers cannot assume anymore. We must remember the danger of assumptions are closely related to a form of stereotyping – forming an “us” vs. “them” situation – which does not breath room for relationship-building and the pursuit of fact-finding to create an overall positive sense of wellbeing and social health.

Safety

Prior to going on any traveling to volunteer experience, there are safety considerations to mull over. Is it an area known for pickpocketing? Malaria? Venomous snakes that slither in the night? Do I have to think about “Plan B” if my volunteering experience becomes unsafe? Who will I turn to if representatives of my volunteer sending organisation is halfway across the world? This news story series got me thinking about are the scores of traveling volunteers who go to countries, such as Honduras, where many citizens of these countries want to leave because of safety concerns or violence. However, if these areas are so violent, why are volunteers traveling to neighbourhoods and border towns that might put them in harm’s way? Of course most wise (you would hope!) volunteer sending organisations will not be creating itineraries in areas deemed unsafe. As an alternative, maybe we should be thinking about the communities and countries that are facing difficult situations and consider another way to support these people groups without physically traveling there. Something to think about.

Help Wanted: Skilled Traveling Volunteers

Recently I had a conversation with an individual who did not understand what they could offer when considering a potential traveling volunteer opportunity. Was a great attitude enough? A “do whatever it takes” attitude that guides program organisers and volunteers through to the end of a short community project experience? Or should a pre-traveling volunteer think about the skills they have and look for an opportunity to use them? All great questions! However, when all is said and done, I believe traveling volunteers should be matched with traveling volunteer opportunities to feature skills they excel in. Here’s three primary reasons why…

Satisfied Volunteers. Traveling volunteers who bring their home-based skills to a community project (that needs them) tend to be more satisfied with the volunteering experience than those who are not skill-matched to a skills-needed project. Although there may be some discomfort associated with working in a foreign situation, a skills-matched project will likely produce a highly satisfied traveling volunteer. This is because the volunteer assisted a community project that needed their skills. Let’s look at a volunteer with painting skills for example. A skilled volunteer painter has the natural experience of being a painter regardless of what context they are in. This is different from that of an traveling volunteer who has never painted before and is expected to produce a stellar product for a foreign community project. Frustration and dissatisfaction with the volunteering experience for the inexperienced painters may occur because they may realise their contribution to the community was less than ideal.

Greater Impact. Highly skilled traveling volunteers, as noted above, tend to produce a stellar product in a community that needs a boost from a skill set under-available in their community. For example, the need for skilled medical volunteers. Many global South communities do not have enough trained medical personnel to manage preventative programs, conduct needed surgeries or to assist with community dental needs. Traveling medical and dental volunteer teams can leave a solid impact in a community that desperately needs health and wellness care.

Sustainable Program Development. Yes, the “S” word! So overused and so misunderstood. Sustainable (development) is much more than a”green thinking” type of development… it is, according to popular definition featured in the 1987 Brundtland Report, “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (p. 45). When traveling volunteers offer their skills to a community, they are not only impacting the current generation of community members, but future generations as well.

Understanding that we all have talents and skills, it is of utmost importance that traveling volunteers explore volunteering opportunities that best match their skills. Not only will they likely be more satisfied with the experience, but will also produce a sustainable impact for current and future community members. After all, isn’t this why people want to volunteer nationally or internationally? To be satisfied knowing the impact of the traveling volunteer’s project is sustainable. Something to think about!

Volunteer, tourist? Does the label really matter?

There is a debate in academia and within general public spaces about what volunteer tourism means. Is it a person who travels to volunteer outside their home community, or is it a traveler with a passion for volunteering?

According to a popular definition penned by Wearing (2001), volunteer tourism is “those tourists who, for various reasons, volunteer in an organised way to undertake holidays that might involve aiding or alleviating the material poverty of some groups in society, the restoration of certain environments, or research into aspects of society or environment” (p. 1). With respect to the word voluntourism, it may be understood to mean “the conscious, seemingly integrated combination of voluntary service to a destination and the best, traditional elements of travel – arts, culture, geography, history and recreation – in that destination” (Alexander & Bakir, 2011). Simply said, there appears to be two components of volunteer tourism/voluntourism: the tourist/traveler, and the act of volunteering.

Many people who travel to volunteer feel offended to be called a volunteer tourist. To them, this label does not adequately describe their motivations to travel to volunteer of their time, energy and often large sums of money to make a difference in a far-from-home community. Others are not so bother by the label as their primary motivation is to travel and see other communities in the world by volunteering a few days in the midst of a vacation.

But one thing should be made clear. The community in which the traveling volunteers spend hours or possibly months in are made up of people just like you. They probably do not care what the visiting volunteers are called. What does matter are the attitudes traveling volunteers bring to the community, long term impacts of the project, and particularly the connections made between themselves and the traveling volunteer. Ultimately it is through the interactions between the traveling volunteer and individual community members that life transformations are made, creating a rippling effect long after the volunteer goes home.

Alexander, Z., & Bakir, A. (2011). Understanding voluntourism: A Glaserian grounded theory study. In A.M. Benson (Ed.), Volunteer Tourism: Theory Framework to Practical Applications (9–29). Abingdon: Routledge.

Wearing, S. (2001). Volunteer tourism: Experiences that make a difference. New York: Cabi.