Each year, people from across the globe decide they want to do good in the world, so they grab their backpacks and head off to other parts of the world – often to much poorer places than where they come from – and volunteer their time to charitable causes. They’re called ‘voluntourists’ and they comprise a fast-growing part of the adventure travel market. But it turns out that many voluntourists are causing harm to those they are trying to help.
When Weh Yeoh set off from his home in Australia to travel in Vietnam, he soon found himself volunteering at an orphanage. “I really had no place being there,” Yeoh tells us. “I hadn’t had a child protection check, didn’t have a social work degree. I wasn’t introduced and vetted. And I was a mid-20’s male, left alone with vulnerable children all the time,” he recalls. “And what I realized was that as good as my intentions were, I wasn’t actually able to affect these people’s lives all that well.”
In this podcast we explore the reasons why the surge in orphanage volunteers may lead to child trafficking, and we ask who is benefitting from these experiences: vulnerable children or foreign volunteers? We also seek to discover better alternatives for those who want to do good in the world through short-term volunteer opportunities.