This blog has been created to write about volunteering and tourism. I will be sharing information, news and articles about overseas volunteering and what is increasingly referred to as voluntourism. I will also address some of the issues and debates surrounding this often controversial type of travel.
So to start with, what exactly is volunteering tourism?
Here is Wikipedia’s definition
Volunteer travel, volunteer vacations, voluntourism, or vacanteerism is travel which includes volunteering for a charitable cause. In recent years, “bite-sized” volunteer vacations have grown in popularity. Volunteer vacations vary widely in scope, from low-skill work cleaning up local wildlife areas to providing high-skill medical aid in a foreign country. Volunteer vacations participants are diverse but typically share a desire to “do something good” while also experiencing new places and challenges in locales they might not otherwise visit.
The website voluntourism.org describes it as:
Volun-Tourism is the integrated combination of voluntary service to a destination with the traditional elements of travel and tourism – arts, culture, geography, history, and recreation – while in the destination.
The organisation Hands Up Holidays describes it as “Your chance to have an inspiring tailor-made luxury travel experience that blends sightseeing with voluntourism or philanthropy”.
i-to-i, one of the leading volunteer sending companies, says on its website “Volunteer travel is a unique form of travel that allows normal people to make an exceptional difference to the planet in a safe, responsible and supported way. Volunteers can enjoy an exciting travel adventure abroad while assisting vitally important environmental and community projects.”
“Philanthropic travel” is another term which is increasingly used. Along with volunteering projects, people can visit communities during their holidays and donate funds to specific projects that they have visited.
So what is the best term to describe this type of travel? Voluntourism seems to be most commonly used in the US market, whereas in the UK volunteer tourism and volunteer travel are more frequently used. And is there a difference between volunteering overseas and volunteer travel? A lot of organisations offering volunteering projects overseas do not use the words travel or tourism on their websites and the emphasis is on going to volunteer on a project.Some go as far as to explicitly state that what they offer is not travel or a holiday.
There is also a movement towards “responsible volunteering”, with many volunteer tourists having negative experiences and the lack of regulation within the industry. A number of different certification schemes for volunteer sending organisations are in development. This is an area I am particularly interested in so I am sure I will be writing about regularly.