Thursday, August 24, 2017

Does overseas "voluntourism" cause more harm than good?...


It seems to be a big fad now to spend thousands of dollars,  not including air fare, with charity tourism companies to do nothing of more import than making the tourist feel arrogantly good about themselves.  Older ladies and teens doing a "gap" year are the most likely to indulge in this type of self-ego stroking.

Subsidiarity is the organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority.  In other words, if the lady living two doors down the road from you could use some help, you'd be the perfect person to provide some relief for her.

The local church pantry providing help for it's temporarily less fortunate members is a right use of subsidiarity rather than relying on the state or federal government to provide food.  

Even the Catholic Church, which believes in the concept, does not do what it teaches.  Every year it holds a nation wide drive whereas the local diocese strong arms each church into donating a certain amount of money, which is coerced out of the parishioners.  The diocese then sends it to the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) who then proceeds to dole it out in the form of grants to some very questionable community organizing groups.  For this reason I have not given one dime to the annual collection and never will.

Even more reprehensible are the people who are exploiting the "natives" of the countries they visit.  Picture this scenario:  You're a fairly well off woman of leisure who decides to open a business that sells African jewelry and artifacts.  Now that tourism junket becomes a business write off, you buy the goods at pennies on the dollar in the guise of helping the native become an entrepreneur, and sell the stuff to your other wealthy lady friends at an exorbitant markup. 

Wow.  That's a three-banger for feeling good about yourself.  And, added bonus - you get to make your friends who purchase your stuff feel good too.  Meantime, your native entrepreneur is sitting next to her mud hut cranking out as many little native bracelets as her arthritic fingers can handle.

One such company, Global Volunteers, headquartered in St. Paul, MN takes groups to many countries and a few destinations in the states such as Appalachia.  On a recent trip to Appalachia they sucked up $1045.00 from each of 16 attendees, not counting travel expenses.  Imagine what you could do to help people with close to 20K dollars.   Or how about over $2,600.00 to go to Cuba, again - not including air fare or other travel expenses? That comes to over 40K dollars which could be used to pay a doctor or other qualified volunteer for a whole year or more. 

Another fad that has started up is tour companies who specialize in "remote vacations."  It was brought to my attention when I read The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, by Lisa See.  The book is focused on a young girl who is raised in the Akha hill tribe of China.  

From Wiki:
Increasingly, the Akha find themselves, whether solicited or not, in the business of tourism, specifically ecotourism. Tourists pay a fee to Akha villages to be allowed to witness and participate in "everyday" Akha life, although much of what they see is often staged. The villagers dress up in their elaborate costumes and charge tourists to take photos with them. In addition to opening the village for visiting tourists, the Akha also sell their handicrafts, including hand woven baskets and even replicas of their traditional costumes. 

Akha, all dressed up for the visitors
While ecotourism agencies claim to help in exposing the plight of indigenous people, many Akha feel that they are being put on display for ecotourist groups, as they are encouraged or forced to wear their most elaborate ethnic clothing and perform ceremonies and rituals that have no meaning for them out of context. The Akha also participate in the regular tourist industry through the sale of their handicrafts and goods to local tourists, which they must often do under financial duress. Many of the Akha people do not see the tourism as halting the Westernizing and globalizing pressures but, rather, as a coercive commercialization and commodification of their culture.  source
Treating people like exhibits in a circus is just disgusting.

Of course, being able to post pictures on Facecrap holding a little African baby, reading to little Cuban children, or sewing baby clothes for people who ought to be sewing their own baby clothes is priceless, doncha know /sarc

This article by Michelle Staton 7 Reasons Why Your Two Week Trip To Haiti Doesn’t Matter: Calling Bull on “Service Trips” and Voluntourism is one of the best I've read on the subject and well worth your time. 

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