What you need to know about voluntourism

Taking a gap year and travelling the world can seem like a rite of passage for university students. Many, especially those exploring under-developed nations, take the opportunity to participate in voluntourism — the practice of sightseeing and travel while contributing to sustainable development.

This sounds great in theory but voluntourism, which has been common for decades, has recently come under the spotlight. Recent reports reveal many of the children in orphanages overseas are in fact not orphans, rather they come from poor families and are taken from their parents to exploit tourists into committing money.

With World Challenge, the globe’s largest school-based volunteer travel company, announcing that they will not be organising trips to orphanages, it seems like traditional voluntourism could be on the way out. So, how can young Australians assist the less fortunate overseas?

Choose projects without children

This might sound harsh but in reality, you can do more harm than good by working in places like orphanages. Volunteers who leave after short periods of time unknowingly damage children and add to the issues they already face growing up in an institutionalised environment.

Consider a donation

Rather than offering physical assistance, you can always donate money to a worthy cause. While this might seem more impersonal, it can often be more beneficial than simply offering to lend a hand, particularly if you don’t have any specialised skills relevant to the initiative.

Do your due diligence

Before you make any kind of commitment to any cause, conduct some thorough research to make sure the cause you are contributing to is legitimate. Find them online, follow their social media pages and get a gauge on what they are doing and why.


Keen for more informative articles about overseas? Take a look at our piece on the podcasts you need in your life

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