The state of the world can be mighty frustrating these days. Our nightly news and social media channels are constantly inundated with so many negative news stories, tragedies and struggles. Sometimes, things can start to feel a little hopeless.
But the surging popularity of voluntourism suggests that people in general have an innate desire to make things better. Many people are actively looking for ways they can help, and contribute to a cause bigger than themselves. We at Discover Corps see volunteers all over the world dedicating their time, energy and hard-earned money in an effort to create serious change in the communities they strive to serve.
We can’t prevent all of the tragedy that we see on TV. But we can each do our part to make things better, and collectively we can make a difference. Here are 5 ways that voluntourism can help make the world a better place…
1) Voluntourism provides resources and services to developing countries.
There’s a reason that the word volunteer is the first part of “voluntourism.”
The main objective of voluntourism is to provide assistance to those who need it. It’s great that it also provides the opportunity for participants to travel and experience an exciting destination. But at the heart of all voluntourism is the objective to make a difference by providing resources and services that might otherwise not be available.
In Costa Rica, for example, our Discover Corps program helps to develop classroom activities to increase awareness about recycling. In Tanzania, we help out with overcrowding in local schools by teaching English and math. These are services that directly benefit the people we’re there to help.
2) Voluntourism encourages cultural exchange.
With all of the ugly conflicts going on around the world today, it’s refreshing to see how two completely different cultures can come together and learn from each other. Voluntourism bridges the gap between people who otherwise might never have known what life was like in these new cultures they become a part of.
Spending time with a family in Thailand or working with teachers in the Dominican Republic shows volunteers and locals alike that, despite our different cultures, languages and backgrounds, we’re not so different after all. Everyone works hard and has fun together, while helping and learning from each other along the way.
3) Voluntourism shows us how our actions can make a difference.
So many of us long to make a difference in the world. But it can be frustrating when we aren’t sure how. Responsibly managed voluntourism provides the guidance to help you help others in a way that makes a positive long-term impact.
Voluntourism programs connect you with the people who need help most and provide you with the knowledge and resources you need to help out in the most effective way possible. Here at Discover Corps, we take the time to actually understand the indigenous cultures we visit, aided by program directors who are representatives of these cultures themselves. This allows us to make a real difference in these places rather than merely doing what makes us feel good.
Once you’ve experienced the joy of helping other people, you begin to realize that anything is possible. Many of our volunteers go on to volunteer elsewhere. After people have seen the difference they can make in the world, they’re much more likely to keep spreading the good energy and sharing this positive outlook with others.
4) Voluntourism encourages us to share our positive experiences.
Can you remember the last time someone told you about an amazing trip they took? Maybe you had never thought about going to Cuba before your friend returned from their travels. But once they regaled you with stories of stunning beaches, colonial architecture, classic cars and lively music filling the streets, you were suddenly inspired to go!
The same thing happens when people share their experiences with volunteering. Maybe your loved ones back home have never been on a volunteer vacation, simply because they aren’t aware of the places they can go and the difference they can make in a few weeks time.
But once you’ve volunteered and can share stories of how great it felt to help build a school and play basketball with the kids who will learn there, you can spread the love and encourage more people to volunteer like you. The more people who know how to make a difference in the world, the better our world gradually becomes.
5) Voluntourism opens our eyes to new experiences.
The world is such a big place. There are myriad cultural practices, landscapes, languages, music, dances, and more that most people have never even dreamed of, much less experienced. Voluntourism brings those experiences to the lives of everyone who participates.
Not only do our volunteers experience something new in the places they visit, but the locals who interact with these volunteers experience new things, too. Volunteers share a piece of themselves wherever they go, and they collect new experiences to bring back home. Whether it’s the experience of teaching a little girl her first English word, or eating a bizarre dish that you can’t pronounce, they all make us better, more well-rounded global citizens.
There are many people all over the world who want to play a part of making our world a better place. Voluntourism, when done right, is one way to help them do that. This world is a beautiful place, and we should all strive to do our part to help save it. –Britany Robinson
BIO: Britany Robinson is a freelance travel and culture writer based in Portland, Oregon. Her works appears in BBC Travel, Mashable, The Daily Dot and more. Her blog, Travel Write Away, shares advice and musings on travel writing. When she’s not planning her next big trip, she’s scoping out Portland craft beers and local hikes.