Many people, particularly Westerners, travel to the developing world each year to volunteer with NGOs and assist communities in need. However, critics of “voluntourism” warn that the self-satisfaction, thrill, and social media attention gained through service may come at the cost of real progress and make a spectacle of poverty. Others defend the good intentions and positive impact of volunteers, arguing that the trips also promote cross-cultural understanding, support local economies, and inspire participants to keep fighting poverty at home and abroad.
Under what circumstances might we find voluntourism beneficial and fair, or counterproductive and unethical? Does it matter whether volunteers are motivated by self-interest if their work does indeed make a difference?
Bring your experiences with and concerns about international service work to the table on Friday for the next session of Allbritton Talks, a conversation series addressing current events, controversial issues, and the enduring questions of public life.
A few articles to get you thinking:
“Can ‘Voluntourism’ Make a Difference?” in the New York Times Room for Debate
“#InstagrammingAfrica: The Narcissism of of Global Voluntourism” by Lauren Kascak and Sayantani Dasgupta
“Is ‘Voluntourism’ Itself Being Exploited?” by Daniela Papi
“To Hell with Good Intentions” by Ivan Illich
This event is sponsored by the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life. Please send topic suggestions to scapron@wesleyan.