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International Volunteering Conference to shed light on ethics in ‘voluntourism’



A conference has been organised to give interested volunteers information on overseas development projects and the practices behind them. The event will take place in London on October 25.

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The International Volunteering Conference, launched by Tourism Concern, will focus on a particular kind of tourism that allows people to volunteer for development or environmental projects overseas.

Despite being praised for the benefits that it brings to the areas involved, voluntourism has sometimes being criticised, as instead of helping the community the practice can result in jobs being snatched from locals.

Mark Watson, executive director of Tourism Concern told Blue & Green Tomorrow, “The desire to travel and experience new cultures around the globe is commendable, as is the desire to volunteer, however it is debatable whether many volunteering opportunities bring real benefits to host communities and many exploit the good intentions of well-meaning volunteers.

“The conference is for anyone interested in these issues and we will explore the motivations of wanting to volunteer overseas, alternatives to volunteering oversea, for instance volunteering at home and travelling ethically overseas,” he explained.

“Volunteers also need to be realistic in what they can offer and appreciate that however well meaning many volunteering placements result in more harm than good. The afternoon will look at how to choose an ethical volunteering placement overseas, listen to how best practice projects are put together and finish with the serious issue of volunteering with vulnerable children.”

Another controversial point relates to volunteering with children and so-called orphanage tourism. Speaking to Blue & Green Tomorrow, researcher Victoria Smith explained that volunteers often do not have the necessary skills to work with children, while the phenomenon of purpose-built orphanages is also becoming more common in poor countries.

Ethical volunteering organisations will be available during the conference to provide more information on individual projects. The event will take place on October 25 at the Braithwaite Hall in Croydon, South London. Those interested can register online.

Photo: Charles Chan via Flickr

Further reading:

Responsible travel is to give back to the community you visit

Is responsible voluntourism possible? ‘Yes, but it’s very hard’, says expert

When on a responsible holiday, do as the locals do

Life changing travel and travel changing lives

The Guide to Sustainable Tourism 2014


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