Folium: Legitimate Voluntourism via NPR
The Folium archives contain many articles on how you can volunteer and study abroad for little to no cost. But I must admit that this is the first article that actually discusses the impact of these new volunteer opportunities on the populations that they serve.
Study abroad or travel experiences are no longer only for the international majors. Employers want to see the drive, fearlessness, and language skills that international travel brings. The effect of this new demand is a surge in international programs and experiences, not all through traditional academic channels. Volunteer opportunities are now commonplace during winter and spring breaks, both school-sponsored and extracurricular.
“It used to be beach and beer,” Jones says. “And now it’s, ‘Well, I want to come down and learn something and figure out how to help or be a part of something.’ It was more superficial 20 years ago, maybe.” (NPR)
However, developing countries sometimes struggle with the rapid influx of people. Organizations in the United States are well prepared to send large amounts of students overseas, but are countries like Guatemala, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic ready to utilize these groups to their full potential?
“What I think often gets lost is the host communities,” she says. “Are they gaining? Are they winning? Are they true partners in this? Or are they simply a means to an end to a student’s learning objective, to someone’s desire to have fun on vacation and learn something?” she asks. (NPR)
The concept of “for-profit” volunteer opportunities is a new grey area. The advice to “do your homework” and research companies, organizations, and charities is simple and sound. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Know the difference between aid organizations, and companies that charge to connect you to aid organizations.
Original broadcast from NPR:
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