During the holiday season we exchange gifts with our friends and family, but we also look for ways to give back to others by giving a piece of ourselves. And today, many of us are looking at ways to give back while we’re on vacation, or rather voluntourism. Once you figure out what type of voluntourism is right for you, how do you find a great volunteer travel program? Here are a few of the things I look at when picking a volunteer travel program.
Find out how much of your fees go to the community. Voluntourism fees often end up in the hands of volunteer agencies and corporations. Do your homework on what percentage of your fees actually goes back into community programming through your host organization.
Work first, photos later. As trafficking prevention initiative, we put people’s dignity first. We don’t place victims on display for the benefit of donors’ egos. Sad-looking photos of vulnerable people on an organization’s website is a red flag that should cause you to question their motives.
Make sure the organization isn’t “helping” people against their will or through economic coercion. Safehouses and orphanages have been known to exaggerate people’s problems or to hold them without permission to leave in order to create “victims” to appeal to their donors. This practice is unethical, disempowering, and detracts from the legitimacy of the actual experiences of vulnerable people.
Make sure there is an application process. Be wary of an organization that lets unqualified or inexperienced volunteers interact with vulnerable populations. Children and exploited people aren’t a tourist attraction, and it’s not a good practice to let a constant stream of strangers into what should be a safe environment-–reputable organizations have a screening process to make sure their volunteers are qualified, even if their volunteers are volunteering while on vacation.
Considering volunteering with us at the Chai Lai Orchid?
Please see our volunteer program for more information on our current volunteer needs and application process: http://chailaiorchid.com/our-social-mission/get-involved-volunteer/.