What is Responsible Volunteering?

What is Responsible Volunteering?

No country is too far, traveling is popular. You probably know someone around you who has made a long journey or has lived abroad for a while. Many people want to do something for the country they are going to during their trip, the so-called 'voluntourism'.
You are probably no longer unfamiliar with terms such as “responsible volunteering” and “sustainable travel”. But when are we responsible? And how can we ensure that quality is guaranteed, for the traveler, the tour operator, and the local population abroad? Think Volunteer is currently researching this and wants to inform you about how you as a student, volunteer, or organization can get just as much out of it as the local population in another country. We look at how we can respond to the needs of you and the local population in another country.
We have done research what travelers find important when doing volunteer work abroad.
We hereby present the results of this research. *note, this research is in Dutch.

When Are You Responsible?

Many volunteers work with vulnerable children in children's homes, shelters, and care for children and/or families who live on the street. It offers organizations the chance to get “free” support. Unfortunately, today's voluntourism does not always have a positive influence.

Imagine you are a 20-year-old student from Europe, and you see an advertisement about street children in Indonesia. You feel like you are being called to help these poor children – YOU can be their savior, the one who makes everything better. You want to see how the “others” live and experience their exotic culture. So, you decide to fly to Indonesia and volunteer in Indonesia for a month, combined with weekend trips to beaches, villages, and cultural places. All while creating an emotional connection with the young children of your volunteer work. A month goes by, you shared a great moment with these Indonesian kids. You taught them English, played games with them and took care of them. With a sense of accomplishment and achievement, you pack your bags and return to Europe feeling that you have solved problems in Indonesia. You just didn't realize you might have caused problems...
The children become attached to the volunteer who gives them attention and then keeps being left behind. This harms a child's attachment process, they eventually lose trust in people, which can have negative consequences in the future (Better Care Network).

The current problem is that travelers often don't get the right preparation and tools they need to make a positive impact internationally. To achieve positive change and overcome the ethical issues and arguments against volunteer tourism, we need volunteers and interns who are prepared, have the right expectations and are responsible. Think Volunteer is convinced that knowledge and education have the most positive effect long term. It is important that the traveler is aware of his or her role in another country and the possible positive and negative impacts. There needs to be more in-depth knowledge of the culture and more interest in the locals to understand them and be able to provide help. In this way the local population can learn more about their own safety during environmental disasters and receive English lessons to give them better opportunities for the future. We cannot prevent environmental disasters; we cannot completely eradicate poverty. However, Western and local forces can be combined to make a difference for these “vulnerable” target groups.
Connection, demand-oriented working and education are central to this.

Do you want to travel and really contribute?
Then you will have to adhere to certain guidelines and prepare yourself well. It is important that you are aware of your role in another country and the possible positive and negative impacts.