A sort of defence of Voluntourism – It’s not Imperialism, it’s being nice

You got to start somewhere. You got to learn somewhere.

Do you think they take people with no experience in third world nations to work in these places? 

Delingpole is not telling the entire truth. For instance? Sub Saharan Africa has 100,000 aid workers. 

1. Majority of Aid Workers are Locals. No Seriously. Like in every single damn project I have been in the foreigners are the minority. MSF is in the major habit of hiring local workers over foreign ones. In fact the only reason doctors get sent in is because doctors are lacked locally. Oh? And you probably cannot just go “volunteer for a gap year with them”. MSF is a major commitment. You can’t go there and decide to quit on a whim. 

Ben Sweatervest Blanchard got Malaria while working out in the field. They didn’t evacuate him. I had a infected unerupted wisdom teeth that had spread to a reconstructed jaw requiring surgery (it’s why I haven’t written in the past few days). We don’t get to go home, because the charity cannot afford to take us back on a whim. In fact? I actually raise my travel funds from my own stipends and from gifts and indeed the blog. That’s right! You guys pay for my travel which is why I encourage readers to not use adblock software or to donate to ease the burden of travel.

I have derided some forms of “voluntourism” before. The selfies taken with the poor don’t actually do anything. Or do they? The more I think about it there is some benefit to this. You got to start somewhere, you got to learn the trade and most of all? You have to see what you CAN do.

Not everyone can hack it, the voluntourist is (IMHO) a way to get some hours under your belt and see if you can hack it. Even in the short term. If you cannot? No foul. If you can? Maybe you will give more.

The idea of voluntourism is that it raises money for the local economy by getting people to come and spend money pretending to do something. Okay? In many cases it is better than nothing. HOWEVER! It is where you start. The first time you find out what you can and cannot do. It’s why most of these people go to FINISHED projects. They work in places like schools that are already been built or doing make work. They aren’t engaging with Ebola patients (What? Margaret from Basingstoke is going to help fight Ebola more than the infectious disease specialists from Brussels and the US Army? Dream on!) but they are sitting around playing with kids or teaching arts and crafts. It’s silly but you know what? Sometimes a little fun is needed.

And just maybe you may want to really help out. I think Delingpole is being disingenuous when he portrays this ideal of coming out and meeting some “hot doctor”.

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Can You Handle The Hotness?

Ladies (and some gents) may need to take a break after that.

But seriously? These sort of places have a horrible way of destroying your fantasies through just being hard. Anyone thinking of having a fling with some hot doc in a refugee camp probably won’t be the sort of person who is going to travel to one.

2. Aid for natural disasters and war is not going to improve GDP, its going to stop deaths. The majority of our aid to Africa is just that. Stopping deaths rather than economy building because halting the deaths IS economy building in the long run. It’s like A&E services at a hospital. It’s not there to cure people, it’s there to fix injuries and stop people dying. 

3. You can debate and win the notion that fishes are from outer space and are inedible but it doesn’t change the fact that fishes are from the sea and delicious with vinegar. Same with Bangladesh and aid. Debates about such topics are just thought experiments really. 

4. You can be like China if you like. Only if we get to be like you and treat your poorest the same way. Aim to be at the top of the pile and be human rather than be epic shit lords. If you don’t learn from history then you will die in interesting geography. The Brits learnt that in Afghanistan. The Americans in Iraq. Do we really need another lesson in the fantasy about being a colonial power? 

5. Let us be clear what he wants. 

Survival of the fittest. Basically? China are going to destroy the environment, so why don’t we do it instead? If you want to see what terrible people adhere to this sort of thought, check out the comments. They quite frankly speak of hundreds of millions of deaths as if that were a good thing.

No proper charity exists to stay forever. 

I may not like voluntourists for the same reason I don’t like tourists But you know what?

That is how we all start. We never leap into this on the deep end. If not for my charity work of youth I would not be here and the more I think about it, the more I realise that none of that “mattered” in the long run. All it was, was making some old people in the UK tea (I worked as the British Equivalent of a Candy Striper) and conversation. But that grew into my work with the Winged Fellowship Holiday homes for the Disabled (now Vitalise) and finally volunteering in India during the Tsunami (I was caught out here on holiday. My entire family worked round the clock to help out and I got into volunteering after that. I don’t think I would have volunteered on that day and done so much work if not for those “stupid” coffees and teas I made. Or those people I wheeled around on their holidays.

We all have to start somewhere, maybe the majority of people who go and pose with kids are doing it for the social recognition. But a few aren’t. The case is how we can do this ethically rather than to try and appear that you are doing more by encouraging the pillaging of local wealth, damage to the environment, unsustainability and indeed if you read the comments? A lot of people suggesting that Africa would be improved by increased deaths of human beings.

The alternative to voluntourism should be trying to make it ethical and improve volunteering rather than trying to make your wishful thinking about the deaths of millions and further profiteering from Africa as some sort of real solution to the issue

Because society is always improved by huge death tolls.

Those who refuse to learn history, die in interesting geography.

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