To be clear, I honor the good intentions of people who take trips around the southern (and sometimes Eastern) part of our world trying to alleviate the pain and suffering that can be found there. However, good intentions is not enough and sometimes it gets in the way of doing good and being useful.
As someone who made 5 trips to Belize with (mostly) white girls in tow to spend 2 weeks (for college credit) doing sustainable service in collaboration with local non-profits, I have spent a lot of time questioning my intentions and challenging the intentions of my students. I still find it hard to reconcile some of the racial, economic and geopolitical implications of the work that I did there, and also on another project on which I worked in Uganda.
So for those considering taking a trip abroad to do service, perhaps you may find these two pieces relevant. Perhaps you may question the implications of your good intentions. Perhaps you may find ways to make your trip more useful or perhaps you may find that there are other ways to contribute. These pieces are here for you to ask questions of yourself; questions for which you may not find answers, at least not easy ones.
A repost of a Guardian piece titled, 'Beware the 'voluntourist' doing good", written by Ossub Mohamud, published on February 20, 2013 in Guardian Africa Network.
Since first posting this post in November, I found another blogpost which is germane to this topic. It's called, "The Problem with Little White Girls (and boys). Why I stopped being a voluntourist"
- Policy provokes me to think and write. I currently work in ivory towers inspiring people to engage in their world. I am a student of the human condition and my classroom is the world. I don't need credentials to have an opinion but I've got paper to prove I know a few things about public health, social welfare and economics. I'm coming out of the tower and taking the words to the people and hope you will send some words back at me.