Good Intentions Gone Bad: The Problem with ‘Voluntourism’
In college, I was lucky enough to participate in the Semester at Sea program via the University of Virginia. Along with 500 other international college students, I took a ship more than 24,000 nautical miles (or approximately 27,000 regular miles) around the world.
One of our ports of call was Ghana, and because of my affinity for service work I was connected with a small group that was invited to participate in a three-day volunteer homestay in the Senase Village near the Ivory Coast for the price of $300 USD. The village was extremely rural and self-sustainable. There would be no plumbing or running water. The way they disposed of their trash was by throwing it into a giant, two story pile near the outskirts of the village. I walked past this pile every day while staying in Senase. On the second day, I saw a dead dog unceremoniously dumped on the side. On the third, the dog was gone: dinner.
“Seeing people who have lost their homes, who have seen their neighbours and families killed, is difficult and humbling. I’m not a doctor, or an aid worker, and when faced with the scale of South Sudan’s unraveling, a camera can feel like a hopelessly inadequate tool. Ultimately, though, I think these stories need to be told. As a journalist it’s our duty to show people the cost of conflict in human terms, to people they’ve never heard of and will never meet.”
“Every first draft is perfect, because all a first draft has to do is exist.”