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Updated on June 19, 2011

Voluntourism in Focus

Voluntourism has been described as a 'nasty new noun' but in reality it is a much needed new word which makes it obvious that there is a clear difference between being a volunteer and being a tourist. As was clearly shown in 'The Great Big Volunteer Rip Off' a volunteer is not someone who pays to perform a task for someone else. Volunteers give their services free of charge and should expect thanks in return. The odd perk or two would not hurt either, but the idea that they should pay is somewhere between ludicrous and ridiculous.

We should then welcome this new word 'Voluntourism' with open arms because it describes exactly what the so called 'volunteers' have been up to for quite some time. Tourists pay out and then volunteer. They are in fact paying for a different sort of holiday and one not so very different to a stay on a health farm where a 'work' regime is implemented and paid through the nose for.

There really is nothing wrong with paying to 'volunteer' especially where there is a need for aid and assistance. That's great. Financial input and hands on help can be extremely beneficial. There are a huge number of activities, both humantarian and otherwise where people really are needed.

 Where it goes wrong is when it is dressed up in a tissue of lies and the reality is that company does not need the manpower at all. They are simply calling for volunteers for cash.

Photo by:
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A Voluntourism Holiday is definitely different and can offer rewards in life experiences, something to tell friends and family. It can change people and make them aware of strengths they did not know they had. It can also do a lot for ones employment prospects by adding to a Curriculum Vitae.

The time has come however to promote, not the activity of Voluntourism but the word Voluntourism. We need to phase out and then stop using the word 'Volunteer' for someone who pays someone to work for them. That is the work of a 'Voluntourist'.

Below is an introductory video from a company which does not hide behind the 'Volunteer' word and promotes Voluntourism.


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  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia

    Hello, hello,- Thanks for reading. It is so easy to overlook things if you are not directly affected but when you are you look deeper.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

    Wow, Peter, that was an eye opener I never knew about. Thank you.

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia

    Yes you are right Sally. Hands up holidays is a money making company. I chose their video to illustrate the hub because they are using the word 'voluntourism' and not calling it 'volunteer' (there is no affiliate programme that I am aware of). Voluntourism says you pay. The volunteer ads are normally different asking for contribution to costs or similar, hiding the fact that someone is making big money.

    There were a lot of both volunteers AND voluntourists who contributed to the Katrina clean up.

    I agree with all you say. Charity does begin at home and yes I consider myself a world citizen. Happy New Year to you!

  • Sally's Trove profile image

    Sherri 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

    It's really great that people with money can turn their vacations into benefits for people who don't have the standard of living some of us do, by volunteering their efforts. I also think it's great that voluntourists come back from a vacation feeling that they've done something good. It's a way of distributing wealth around the world and also learning more about the world.

    What I'm not comfortable with is the message in the video you shared. Hands Up Holidays is making money from these voluntourism adventures (correct me if I'm wrong). I'd rather give my time and money to something close to home without paying a third party for the privilege.

    Home for me is the USA, and there's plenty of poverty and lack of infrastructure here, contrary to popular belief. Habitat for Humanity is only one organization that makes a huge difference. The Red Cross is another, with its assistance to disaster victims who are left homeless and jobless by such catastrophes as hurricane Katrina.

    I could be thinking, charity begins at home. But I'm also thinking "home" is the world, not just one country.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking look at how doing something good for the world could pad individual pockets.

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia

    TravelinAsia - Thank you for your comment. I had not thought of it from that angle. In the zoo world every single volunteer I had took the work very very seriously. I suppose in other professions it may well be different.

  • TravelinAsia profile image

    TravelinAsia 7 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia

    I must admit, I did get my first ESL teaching job as a voluntourist. The problem is, you take your job far more seriously when you are getting paid for it. I DON'T think it is a good idea to use volunteer teachers, and I would not recommend it to anyone. In Asia, volunteer teachers seem to do more harm than good.