The amount of times I've heard people say to me; "do it why you're young", as if the only time that we should open ourselves up to new possibilities is when we're still young enough to enjoy them, before age, and responsibility bears down on us, and we can no longer afford to take a break from our lives.
Volunteer tourism, increasingly referred to as voluntourism, is a form of tourism in which international volunteers participate in voluntary work abroad.
No matter how old you are, spending time working abroad and helping a local community or environment, is always worth doing. But how do you make sure you get the most of out of the trip and ensure the projects you're working on make a real difference?
What is often forgotten, and left behind in coverage, is that every single refugee, each statistic in some newspaper, is a life that has been absolutely shattered. Now, as their home is once again to be demolished, the lives and futures of each and every refugee in Calais is once again uncertain.
As the market research keeps telling us, millennials are all about experiences. And when it comes to life-enriching experiences, there's nothing more fulfilling than volunteering in an orphanage in a developing country, right? Fulfilling for the volunteer, maybe.
A growing demand for voluntary placements in children's homes and orphanages has also led to more children ending up in orphanages and other institutional care homes despite having families at home that are likely to be able to care for them. It is estimated that of the two million plus children who live institutional care, a shocking four out of five have at least one living parent.
Travelling Abroad for Voluntary Work in the World's Poorest Places? Then You Are Part of the Problem, Not the Solution
Next time you or someone you know suggests taking one of these trips remember that it is really about the fulfilment of the volunteers themselves, the companies who make a profit and not the host nations. Going on a trip like this is one of the most selfish and damaging things you can do.
A common criticism is that volunteering 'harms the local economy'. Jobs are taken that locals would be far more skilled in. However, volunteers can do important but easily learnt tasks that can liberate locals to do other, more demanding pursuits.
We'd reduce our carbon footprint, we wouldn't damage these local communities and fragile environments BUT we wouldn't learn...we wouldn't be able to help...we wouldn't be able to contribute to their economy...and we wouldn't be able to make a difference!
We need to re-professionalise the practice of volunteering, by standing up to the 'no experience necessary' providers and accepting only opportunities that we can honestly say we would be fit for taking on back home.And when we do that..? Then I'll feel proud to call myself a 'volunteer' again.