There have been many different articles written about the ineffectiveness of short-term voluntourism trips to developing nations, including here and here by our friends at in-Training. You know the kind of trips I’m talking about: a spring break spent painting an orphanage in Haiti as opposed to drinking all day in Panama City Beach; a 10-day excursion in exotic Peru, with the pics with Machu Picchu to prove it; or, for the overachieving do-gooders, a couple weeks spent touring a slum in Nairobi, Kenya.Reasons 1, 6, and 7 struck the loudest chords in me.
However, these types of trips often exploit the people and communities they pretend to help. Worse, these short-term
serviceself-fulfillment trips can end up doing more harm than good.
I’m guilty of this myself. I spent a couple of weeks in a remote Ukrainian village in 2006, where I basically just hung out with a few orphans and occupied space. The following summer, immediately after graduating high school, I spent a few months in Uganda where I did slightly more work until I realized the true uselessness of my unskilled presence there. But the only people less helpful than me were the groups of voluntourists I’d see trickle in and out, wrongfully believing they made a lifelong difference in a child’s life.
Many people have the best intentions, but lack the necessary tools to be effective. Here’s why trips like that are a problem.
I've known students who do these trips "to look good on a college application"--and no doubt to satisfy a Messiah-complex in the process. There's nothing wrong with helping, but the link above discusses better alternatives to volun-tourism.