Volun’tourism’ – The New Exploitation of Good Intentions

Philanthropic travel

"You want to feel good when you're on vacation. If helping others makes you feel good, why not make doing a good deed the centrepiece of your next trip?"

Canada.com obviously is interested in westerners good times all the way down to their uninhibited good intentions. Feel crappy about the world? Good do something good on your vacation… because it's all about you.

If you're getting the feeling that I truly despise voluntourism — the new tourism of planning a personal trip with a bit of social conscience involved — you would be right. Check out Canada.com's tourist grab:


Hey, it's great that people in the richly endowed West are waking up to the travesties in our world today. But packing sack and hittin' the road to visit those poor little orphans on the way to the beach isn't only unfair, it's repulsive. What do you know about the local people's needs? What about the children's needs? Are you there for the long haul? Will you ever come back? Do you see the deeper issues at hand that must be dealt with before just handing out cheaply made t-shirts which, by they way, probably have slave labour invested in their threads down through the supply chains? Do you care about the culture you're actually in? Do you appreciate it? Love it? Know the language? The history? 

Whoa, Erin… that takes away from the vacation part. It's supposed to be both, remember?

Nothing wrong with taking a vacation. Buying tours to slums or orphanages to hand out useless crap has a saviour complex to it. Take the pill, West — we're not the saviours. You want a vacation? Go camping in Drumheller. Nice scenery. Hear they have a great museum. 


I can't think of anything more selfish a well-meaning westerner could do that to "fit in" some brownie points in a poorer country. You exploit the people for "the poor who have nothing", you invest in short-term projects that contribute to long-term problems, you make yourself feel good while leaving those cute little cherubs behind, you come back to Canada (or wherever) and show off all of your good deeds to your friends — you're the hero, you're the bleeding heart that "did something" — and those families, those people are exposed then to us as animals. You just went on a human safari. Good for you. Give yourself a pat on the back. I'll just wait here to give you a smack upside the head.

You want to do something good in this world? Start looking around you. Who's next door to you? You want to do something good overseas? Start taking a really good look at the needs in various countries, current events, whether your work will do more harm than good, and you know what? If your actions will harm, DON'T GO. End of story. Find another starting point. Those orphans know their country and situation better than you ever will. They also see a sucker coming a mile away and know how to ruffle your affections while struggling to survive, truth, lies and everything in between.

Here's what Ian Birrell of the Guardian thinks… methinks he's right…


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