Voluntourism is becoming a trend nowadays. From the usual “sightseeing” activities, tourist are now starting to engage in more worthwhile activities like volunteering into charitable programs and community projects as part of their travel.
From community building, education initiatives, to health and environmental projects, it provides voluntourists a number of opportunities to enrich different lives and communities while also enjoying and learning.
But sometimes, having good intention is not enough. The things you thought you’re doing fine can, in fact, pose greater problems. To achieve its maximum potential, voluntourism must be done responsibly. So before you rush into joining voluntouring programs, here are some of the essential things you need to keep in mind.
Conduct research about the area you are going to visit. Take some time to understand the people and their culture, history, practices, their language or dialect. This will help you understand the challenges your host community is currently facing. In doing so, you’ll be aware of these important aspects and be able to navigate through your voluntouring work better. One thing to highlight also is the importance of observing safety precautions to avoid miscommunication, accidents, or getting communicable diseases.
Remember that you are a visitor and the local community is your host. Aside from the volunteer work itself, you can already help your host community by being a responsible voluntourist. Take a reusable bag with you and place your litter inside. Dress appropriately and respect local dress codes. When purchasing souvenirs, try as much as possible to buy items from locals. When planning to feature the place on your blog or social media, be sensitive on how you will portray the locals. Ask the people first before taking a picture of them.
Aim for a lasting impact
When choosing an organization, make sure to look for programs that provide a sustainable impact for its host communities. Check if the project has long-term and community-focused impact. However, you don’t always have to go for long-term projects as you can still create an impact even for a short period of time. What is important is to ensure that the organization you go with have sustainable goals for development and not just end there when you leave.
Voluntouring is just one of the countless ways you can make a difference in your society. No matter how big or small your contribution is, make sure to do it responsibly.
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