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Many people think of voluntourism as a type of good deed that they can enact when they enter another country. In truth, could voluntourism have harmful effects? Some people believe that it doesn’t have as positive effects on the country as what they might think. In fact, most of the time, it does more to benefit the volunteer than what it does the country.

Voluntourism: A Multi-Billion Dollar Business

Most people have seen voluntourism companies market themselves as helpful, sustainable, and crucial for doing good in the world. Is that reality? In truth, many signs point to how short-term voluntourism could have more negatives than the positives they claim to do. It expects communities to act passively grateful, and in many cases, the volunteer will shrug away from of the most pressing issues like resource shortage and infrastructure problems.

Benefits the Community Little

In most cases, voluntourism benefits the organization that sends the voluntourists, and it might benefit the tourist with feelings of well-being, but in fact, it doesn’t help much beyond that. It might boost the person’s CV or help them to look good on social media, but it doesn’t help much beyond that. In many cases, the voices from the community remain completely absent as those who benefited from the organization’s help don’t even get a voice.

Communities Don’t Wait Around for People to Fix Things

People should put themselves into the shoes of the community. They can’t wait around for foreigners to show up and help fix things. They have to act. Unfortunately, a great deal of ego exists within this field to where volunteers believe that they can even do things better than what people within the local community can do. In Cambodia, the orphanages even have a problem where they began to grow simply because they wanted to make money off voluntourists. Children who were not orphans were used to attract more donations and tourists. That should highlight the real problem with this industry.

What has happened is that people construct easy solutions to complex problems, and they try to fit the problem into the mold. Unfortunately, it doesn’t solve the problem, and as seen in the case with Cambodian orphanages, it can create a fake market where few people even benefit.