Thought I should share this.
“Volun-tourism” is a disturbing trend in the social work sector, often fueled by first world demands to provide participants with a quick-fix “feel-good” experience in the shortest time and at the lowest cost.
Volunteers come back patting their backs about how much they have done, how poor the people are, how privileged they are to be born in the first world, and collecting pictures of poor children from these trips and posting them on facebook like trophies after a hunt.
There is something gravely wrong when we quantify our successes by how much we have done and accomplished on a mission instead of how much the locals have benefited. But wait… surely the locals must have benefited !
Buried at the backs of our minds is this flawed belief “Something is better than nothing”, we believe that anything we bring to the table is of great value to the locals, be it teaching English for 2 days, helping a farmer plant rice, build a house etc
What most people don’t see is this.
Quietly behind the scenes after a volunteer leaves, you see children who are still unable to speak any English but can recite A-Z without blinking an eye, especially after their 20th “basic english class”, you’ll see farmers looking at their fields in despair wondering will there be enough to harvest after the volunteers planted everything wrongly, or even to the point that newly built houses had to be torn down as the structure was too dangerous to live in.
These trips get as cheap as SGD400 for an entire week. But think about the harm it can cause just to bring us this feel good experience.
We advocate against volun-tourism/hit & run type of missions because we’ve seen the damage it caused, how locals are left to pick up the pieces and the community spirals further down the poverty cycle.
We can travel cheaply, quickly to gain as much experience as we can, but not at the expense of the locals.
RADION’s trips are not cheap because we choose not to cut corners, exploit the locals, or provide sub-standard services to our beneficiaries. We ensure that surpluses are all plowed back into micro-enterprises, building projects and ensuring sustainability for the people who serve alongside us can sustain themselves & their families.
In short term/Hit & run mission, time is limited and we are forced to be so task oriented that we forget that it’s the people that matters most.
It’s likened to seeing a child struggling to tie his/her shoelace, we often jump right in to help tie it; not so much as to help the child, but simply because it will be faster and more convenient for us.
To bring about sustainable change, we need to be ready to inconvenience ourselves and take more time so we can effectively partner the community to build the tomorrow they dream about.
We are only successful when we have built lasting friendship & trust and when the beneficiaries tells us “My dear friend, we have finally done it on our own !”