Beyond "Voluntourism"


volunteers_buildingVolunteering is up among teens, but what kinds of experiences are we giving them and will it lead to long term philanthropy? 

The intent is to expose our youth to poverty/hunger/illness; but sometimes that feels a little like using folks as props for a real-life Very Special Episode - some have termed this "voluntourism." Poverty, hunger, illness, abuse – these are more than that. And when we expose young people to these harsh realities, we should do it with care and conscientiousness. 

A good example that I learned about recently are several programs aimed at getting high school and college students to invest in helping others. 

From an article in the Winter Park/Maitland Observer: 

“At HOPE CommUnity Center in Apopka, students pay $300 to stay in a migrant farmworker’s home for several days and eat local food, making a direct contribution to the family’s livelihood.

These aren’t “feel good” trips. On the contrary, students should return feeling uncomfortable about the realities they’ve witnessed – whether it’s living conditions in West Virginia coal mining towns, high school drop-out rates in Chicago or immigration hearings in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami.”

That also means that young people feel invested in the solutions, too. Alexandria has a number of places where students can help out in a meaningful way, like through Volunteer Alexandria which posts a weekly volunteer hot-list. 

What sort of volunteer activities do you think more of your young folks should be involved in? 


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