Volunteering in AFRICA: please don’t come help! Ask these four questions.

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By Alex Bresler

Recent research suggested ‘voluntourism’ can often do more harm than good. It has been linked to damaging local economies and commodifying vulnerable children. It can also perpetuate harmful stereotypes about the so-called “third world”, while also promoting neo-colonialistic attitudes.

I don’t recommend voluntourism. But if you’re set on visiting our Continent to volunteer, please ask yourself these four questions:

  1. Would you volunteer abroad if you had no cameras with you?
    • This is a paraphrasing from Nayyirah Waheed’s poem, “a question of appropriation.” It’s a question that forces travelers to be introspective about their motives.
  2. Does the agency have the same intentions and values that you do?
    • If you want to do something good for the world, you should want to support an ethical volunteering agency or organization. Don’t be afraid to take a close look at voluntourism agencies before handing them your cash.
  3. Are you going to be doing more harm than good?
    • Be realistic about how your work will affect the locals. Be sure to research beforehand what effect you’re really having by trying to “help.”
  4. Would you trust yourself enough to do this job in your own country?
    • If you wouldn’t trust yourself enough to do a job in your own country, don’t try to do it in someone else’s.

About: Alex Bresler is a travel writer with plans to go everywhere. She also works as a copy editor and digital producer at Matador Network.

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