Orphanages are a top destination for voluntourism projects. According to recent reports, many children are separated from their families and trafficked into orphanages to fulfill the demand for voluntourism.
Raising children in orphanages is harmful to their health and development. Short term volunteers can cause attachment disorders for children living in orphanages by creating bonds with children then leaving and not returning.
Many voluntourism projects are tailored for the voluntourist to deliver a service instead of contributing to expanding the capacity of the community. For example, a voluntourist would pay to teach as an alternative to training the community members to become teachers. This does not promote sustainability nor contribute to the 4th Sustainable Development Goal: Quality Education.
The white saviour complex is a running theme across aid work and is further reinforced in voluntourism. Promotional material often portrays majority-white western ‘saviours’ and ‘impoverished’ black, Asian, and ethnic minorities. This representation perpetuates a harmful narrative of communities not being able to help themselves and in need of western saviours to relieve them from poverty.
As part of our mission, we value the importance of diversity and inclusivity by dismantling this unprogressive narrative.
Communities also voice their frustrations of having a constant flow of short-term voluntourists working on unsustainable projects as well as preventing locals to work for a salary. Many locals feel like ‘tourist attractions’ where unknown individuals persist in helping them without asking what their true needs are as well as taking photos without consent. This practice is exploitative and dehumanising.
Providing free labour to a community has negative economic consequences. For example, having an inexperienced voluntourist build a school for free prevents a skilled worker from being paid to do that job. Many construction projects are also poorly built due to inexperienced voluntourists. This does not promote sustainability nor contribute to the 8th Sustainable Development Goal: Decent Work and Economic Growth.
Some voluntourists undertake medical projects without the appropriate qualifications that are required. Subsequently, communities are not given good or safe healthcare. This practice does not promote the 3rd Sustainable Development Goal: Good Health and Wellbeing.