All certainly laudable in concept. The intentions are good, and often the results are, too. Buuuut ... just as there's nothing inherently wrong with doing the standard-issue Grand Tour, there's also nothing inherently better about trying to save the world in your two weeks of vacation. Sometimes, alas, you can do more harm than good. NPR's "All Things Considered" tackled the topic of voluntourism today and had some interesting observations:
But in South Africa, some researchers now claim that foreign visitors aren't actually helping the children they work with. In fact, they might be harming them.
The South African government has expressed concern about so-called AIDS orphan tourism, and the Department of Social Development recently said that it will study the issue.
... The psychological literature talks about attachment theory — very young children are programmed to build attachments," she says. "And so, you've got these sort of repeated abandonments — first with young children whose parents may die of AIDS. And then they go to live in an orphanage where you often have high staff turnover."
The process continues when well-meaning tourists come to volunteer their time, she says.
"And then you've got tourists that are coming as sort of the third wave of this abandonment. Children are left behind to remember a series of these foreigners who come in and then leave them there," Norman says.