A Take On Voluntourism
Your spring break volunteer trip isn't as helpful as you think
Posted by NowThis on Friday, 13 April 2018
(Video Source: NowThisNews)
It is always upsetting to watch or read about how our efforts to help may sometimes achieve the opposite effect. Yet, this is exactly why OHF exists. We ensure that we are a responsible NGO, to both our supporters as well as to the communities we serve.
In the video shown above, Dr. Samantha Nutt, the founder of Warchild USA, talks about some of the consequences of volunteer tourism, commonly known today as voluntourism. Here at OHF, we strongly agree with Dr. Nutt that humanitarian work must be done with wisdom, to ensure that we truly help communities, and not harm them.
Here are some of Dr. Nutt’s points, and what OHF is doing to ensure we do not harm the very communities we aspire to help.
1. Voluntourism trips are largely designed to benefit the visitor.
While we do run volunteer trips, our trips are designed entirely to benefit the community we serve. In both Cambodia and Nepal, we do community development work without asking for anything in return from beneficiaries. We genuinely and passionately want to make a difference to the lives of the people we are serving. We have built houses, toilets, and wells for the poorest of the poor who cannot help themselves. Our construction team is made up of qualified locals hired directly by OHF, so we can be sure that the quality of the houses, toilets, and wells is ensured. Volunteers are there to help, as well as gain a better understanding of communities beyond Singapore, but the trips are not designed for them just to feel good. Critically, the donations from our volunteers are what makes these community development projects possible.
2. What communities ask and deserve is that we believe in and invest in them. What they want, need. and deserve are tools, resources and opportunities to learn and to do that work themselves.
Certainly, we believe as well in believing and investing in the people we serve. Our community development team in Cambodia is a team of locals hired directly by OHF. After years of experience, the team is more than capable of completing the construction process without supervision by OHF staff. We are more than thankful for a capable team that can operate independently. What they do need help with, however, is the funding for construction material. This is where OHF coordinates donations from our generous supporters in Singapore, and channel them to the programs that require funding.
Our Training & Job Skills for the Service Sector (TJSSS) program is another example of how we design our programs to impart skills and knowledge to the locals so that they can pave their own way for a better future. In this program, we enrol rural youth in either a 3- or 7-month course to teach them English, computer skills, etc.
3. Some orphanages deliberately keep conditions squalid to compel visitors to give more.
This is most deplorable and OHF does nothing like this. From the photos of our children’s homes on our website, it is clear that OHF provides a conducive home for the children under our care. Hope Village Prey Veng covers 80,000 square feet and is well equipped with a computer room, a small library and spaces for sports & recreation. We want nothing more than to provide our children with a good and loving environment for them to grow up in. In Nepal, we are currently building a new home in Pokhara, which will be able to be home to 120 children.
4. A revolving door of visitors may be psychologically damaging to children.
We at OHF are similarly concerned with the psychological and emotional health of our children. We do not allow visitors to come and go as they please. All visits are strictly controlled by HQ staff in Singapore. For us, it is also a matter of safety, security, and privacy of our children.