Text page

Volunteering in Asia

Volunteering in Asia forum

Paying $$$ to volunteer? Usually not a good idea

Posted by mariannewiseman on 31/1/2010 at 09:29

From PEPY TOurs - you can google them
Speaking as one who has worked with UNICEF and Save the Children, I would caution against 'amateur volunteerism'. While the impulse to help is laudable, we need 'help that helps'. Think about the children: what is the effect of many short term volunteers who relate to the children, and then disappear? Whose needs are being served? Speaking as an English teacher, sorry, but unqualified people who do short term conversation with students - anywhere, not just Cambodia - have very little effect.
I endorse the comments by a number of people that work needs to be created - sustainably - for Cambodians, not for volunteers.
Those with skills could think of volunteering long term with organisations such as Australian Volunteers Interantional, and VSO in the UK...

From PEPY TOurs - you can google them
"3) You say on your website that "PEPY Tours aims to catalyse a large-scale, transformational change in tourism." What do you think is the single most important change required in Cambodia?

In Cambodia, there are roughly two million tourists a year who come to Siem Reap. Among tourists in particular, there is a strong tendency and urge to "give". People come to Cambodia, fall in love with the place and the people, and want to "help". With little understanding of how to do that more effectively or who to trust, travellers can sometimes unknowingly support short-term solutions, undermine government projects, encourage more dependency, or contribute to corruption through ill-researched donations. Some might choose to not support a project at all because they don't know the best ways to do so.

In an ideal world, Cambodian tourism would be environmentally sustainable, low-impact, and community-led, generating funding which goes back to local projects. It would lead to better understanding between peoples, a higher standard of living for Cambodians, and a significant learning experience for travellers. It could empower, not foster dependency.

To get closer to this goal, the four main changes we would like to see in tourism in Cambodia today are:

a) No more orphanage tourism. In some cases, donations for "poor" orphanages are keeping kids looking poor and orphanage owners very rich. In addition, unrestricted visits by foreigners to visit and play with children can lead to negative outcomes. This tourism trend will continue to cause harm until travellers are better educated about the rights of children and ways to support them. Child-Safe International is a great resource to learn about some of these issues.

b) More money staying in Cambodia. Most visitors don't realise it, but they are usually staying in foreign-owned hotels, eating in foreign-owned restaurants, buying imported fruit and foods that came over from Thailand, and little of their money is staying in Cambodia. PEPY's Responsible Tourism Statement highlights our efforts to try to increase the positive impact of our tours in Cambodia and might spark ideas and questions for others planning their travel in the area.

c) Tourism that adds to the community. With so many good intentions out there, it's disappointing to see how often "voluntourism" or traveller's philanthropy ends up doing more harm than good. In an effort to improve our own work and to share the lessons we have learned with others, we have conducted research to develop a Voluntourism Self-Check tool full of questions, which should help voluntourism operators and travellers better analyse the impact of volunteer travel offerings.

d) An end to both child, and adult, sex-tourism. Enough said. It's horrific. To this end, we should still work on the first point above as sometimes unrestricted access to children's facilities that have no child protection policies can add to this."

As well as doing the research to support sustainable tourism, also consider developing long links with well-functioning organisations in Cambodia - too many people want to help for a moment, then go away and forget!
With metta

#1 mariannewiseman has been a member since 31/1/2010. Posts: 1

Please login to add your reply

You need to be a Travelfish member to be able to add a post to the forum. After logging in you'll be returned to this page automatically to add your post. Not a member? Join up here.