So this wasn’t the post I was going to write today, yet after reading an article in the huffington post I thought I would write this instead. Today on my Facebook on of my friends had shared a link to an article from the huffington post site to do with volutourism. This post has actually come from another blog by Pippa Biddle: http://pippabiddle.com/2014/02/18/the-problem-with-little-white-girls-and-boys/.
This post explains why volutourism is a bad thing because it’s been done incorrectly and suggests ways that it needs to change. And, whilst I’m sure many of you will argue that I’ve slated projects and not seen the benefit of them without explaining them to the standard that I need to for you to understand why. The reason for that is because the project I went on with GHEI was different to many of the other volutourism projects that there are; the post by Pippa does just that. It explains how many of this projects have teens and 20 somethings building schools and libraries when they don’t have the skill to. As a result, the projects then employ locals to rebuild the volunteers’ work at night: thus, resulting in a non economical way of doing the build. This isn’t the first article I have read about these issues and with my degree in international politics that shouldn’t be surprising. This is why I’m asking you to double check the projects that you are considering doing.
With GHEI the two many projects that they run are a girls empowerment camp and a malaria prevention session. I went on the girls empowerment one as I didn’t feel like I presets all the skills for the malaria prevention. The malaria prevention requires you to be able to carry out questionnaires with the villagers and make sure they are using the malaria nets correctly; who needs to use them; and, how to repair them. GHEI makes sure that their volunteers are taught how to repair the nets and how to use them. The latter is for their own benefits as well as being able to teach others. On top of this GHEI teaches all their volunteers Twi (the local language) to try to help build a bridge between the “little white girls and boys” as Pippa calls them. Whilst I have the skills to carry out surveys and how to use a malaria net I can’t sew very well plus I wouldn’t be able to explain why it is important to use the nets compare to other people whose main studies are linked with biology. Some of you may argue that at the age of 20 I didn’t have the skills to teach the girls what they needed for the girls empowerment camp. Yet, I would argue that I did and that I still do. If you look at the post I did to do with the project you will see a list of sessions that we covered. With these sessions we spilt it up so we all covered 2 sessions each working with another volunteer at the same time. The sessions that i covered where the leadership and self confidence, whilst these were the ones I lead I still needed the skills for the other sessions too. For example, the money management all the volunteers needed to be able to manage their own money and when you have been living away from home with a set amount of money a month you soon relies how important it is to be able to do this well. The reason I choose the leadership session is that I’ve been Putin leadership positions throughout my life when I’ve: captained my rugby teams; been a student teacher at a Saturday drama school; a young leader at a youth; and school prefect. This has also led to me having self confidence which is why I also choose that session. By us all allowing to play to our strengths meant we could teach the girls to a higher level.
The other major criticism that Pippa gives is that not enough locals are involved with the projects. With GHEI we had two of the local members of staff there helping us to translate for when our English was a bit too complex for the girls and for when their Twi was too complex for us. This also meant that we had two women that we could use as examples for why these things were important in the room for the girls to look up to. In addition, we were able to get other local women to help out and give a talk to the girls in our sessions as GHEI works so closely with the whole community.
So to answer the question is volutourism really worth the price you pay? Well it depends on how your charity is set up if you are doing projects where you are building it’s probably not, unless you are a builder. Yet, if you have the skills the charity is looking for then it probably is. And, one of the biggest differences I’ve seen from friends going to do volutourism and my experience is the NGOs and charities that make you go through a long application process want to make sure they get the right people due to the skills they are looking for. Make sure you look out of these things if you are looking at doing this form of travel.
Anyway, that’s it for this week make sure you take a look at Pippa’s article. Please let me know what you think. More next Wednesday.