Reviews from Past Volunteers

Reviews from Past Volunteers (225)

Voluntourism - helpful or harmful?

Recently, the concept of Voluntourism has been heavily criticised by many who have accused it of being a means in which privileged and socially idealistic travellers can enter less fortunate communities and ‘make their difference in the world.’ They show concern for the ever-growing industry’s treatment of the developing world as a giant ‘playground’ in which the socially privileged can overcome the ‘guilt’ they feel for being on the beneficial end of global disparity. They also fear that many projects, in which the volunteers participate for only 1-2 weeks do more harm than good in often delicate social situations.

Although it is clear that many projects exist that only ever scratch the surface of the effects of poverty, it would be very short-sighted to generalise with regards to other volunteer organizations. The main objective of Voluntario Global is to empower local communities and to create long-term sustainable development programs. The idea is to work with rather than for the community, thus focusing more on development rather than dependence. This therefore rejects the current popular notion that ‘ voluntourism is the new colonialism.’  

This mutually beneficial relationship creates a two way learning experience, in which the volunteer takes away from the project just as much, if not more than the local community. It would seem that the organisation’s basis of inter-cultural exchange, is what is lacking in other projects that have been recently criticised for their ‘superficial’ and ‘disingenuous’ approach to important social issues. It is therefore clear that the idea of exchange is crucial in the success of volunteer projects. Not only do the projects exist to benefit the local communities, but they are also a vehicle through which volunteers can gain a deeper insight and understanding into the lives of the people with whom they are working.   

Volunteers, this is not Texas anymore!

Early morning commutes became a common feature in the lives of the girls from the University of Texas who came to Buenos Aires to help in a kindergarten in Suarez. But navigating the Subte, sleeping on the train, and then catching a bus was only the start of their day!  

When they arrived at the project, they were greeted by lots of smiles and hugs from the excitable children who came running out of the building to say ‘Hola’. But before the volunteers got too carried away, they had to delegate tasks and decide who was going to do what.

Their work wasn’t only playing with the kids, they were also here to do more physically demanding work such as building and construction, as well as painting and digging. So, one of the first things they had to do was divide up the work between themselves. Some went into the classroom to help the children with their numeracy work, while others dedicated their time to varnishing wood and decorating the walls.

This specific day was really exciting for the children. Two professional dentists visited the kindergarten to teach them about the importance of dental hygiene.

They brought with them two animal puppets with mouths wide open to demonstrate how to brush teeth correctly. It was a brilliant opportunity for the kids to interact and learn through entertainment. The grins on the faces of the kids grew even larger, and the volunteers and parents seemed to enjoy themselves too! Everybody was given free toothbrushes!

Once the children had been picked up by their parents, it was time for the big clean-up to begin! The kids are very good at making mess, so the volunteers have to be good at clearing it all away!

Meanwhile, the rest of the girls got to work on the walls of the kindergarten. They painted and added colourful designs so that the building matched the liveliness of the children.

And then, after all the work was done, it was time for lunch. Milanesa was on today’s menu! The volunteers sat down with the coordinators of the project and enjoyed some relaxing downtime.

It was the coordinators’ way of saying ‘gracias’ to the volunteers whose presence provides an invaluable helping hand. They are able to help lighten the load of the coordinators who dedicate so much of their time to the children. What’s more, they provide a great opportunity for the kids to experience different faces and different cultures, an essential part of their education!

The return journey back into the city was much like the outbound. Everyone was tired after the hard working day, so falling asleep wasn’t very difficult. But it just goes to show how much of a rewarding day the volunteers had, and how effective their work is to the project.    

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VOLUNTARIO GLOBAL

Voluntario Global helps local communities by being available to discuss anything that local organizations need, and offering ideas for further change and development.
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CONTACT

Location: General Pacheco. Buenos Aires. Argentina
Email: jfranco@voluntarioglobal.org

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