I’ve had this chat with many people time and time again. Those who feel they are more educated than the average citizen often believe that voluntourism is a terrible thing. On the contrary, those who have never heard of this word before often make it out to be the most sustainable way to travel.
Both are right, both are wrong.
You need to be aware of what voluntourism stands for before engaging in missionary work abroad. To help you get a little sense of what to look for in the right organization, follow these few pointers:
Sustainability is all about meeting the needs of our current generation without compromising the needs of future generations to come. It is about creating a lasting difference that is long term. If you’re planning on coming to volunteer with the children for a two week venture and then say your farewells shortly after… you really need to consider what it is you’re bringing to the children. If you decide to sit in the classroom and engage in daily activities, the chances are this exchange may be more rewarding for you than it is for the children. Try and consider bringing new games and implementing new ideas to the classroom.
Example: In March of 2012 I travelled to Lima, Peru on a sports mission trip with my university class. We taught government officials, coaches and teachers how to implement sport into the classroom which would also integrate fundamental learnings such as dental hygiene, avoiding alcohol abuse, etc. Though we left only a few short weeks later, we knew that having left behind our skills, expertise and a book filled with ideas this would be a more sustainable venture.