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Voluntour…what?

Voluntourism.

It’s a bit of a funny word, which I’m not even sure is in the dictionary at the moment.

When I think of vacations, like my trip to Mexico last May, I think of amazing food, picture taking, beaches, waves, coconuts, sunscreen (with pale skin and freckles, I’m convinced I need it!) and forgetting about work, school or whatever else may be on my mind the moment I leave. What I don’t necessarily think about too often is taking time during my vacation to volunteer or serve. Yes, I’ve done missions work in Eastern Europe and Canada a few times so I understand the idea of overseas service work, but I can’t say I quite thought of those experiences as vacation.

Yet, an article I read this afternoon (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23262573) which says voluntourism (or volunteer tourism) is growing in popularity. A survey cited in the article claims 20 percent responded to say they had taken a volunteer vacation and almost all of these travellers said they would do it again. Of those who didn’t respond, just more than 60% said they would think about it. People are taking volunteer vacations or thinking about them and those who go want to go again; there must be something to this!

 

The article raises the growing trend of our desire to be personally involved in the relief and service work that’s happening overseas. In other words, many of us would like to experience how our contributions are making a difference, sometimes even more than writing a cheque. Interesting.

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Are we making a greater difference doing the visiting ourselves or by writing a cheque for someone who’s already there? Is the life change that happens only for those of us who travel and, if so, is that reason enough to invest in a volunteer vacation? What about if we’re better advocates when we return than when we left?…Does that make it truly worthwhile? What is it about being involved in the action ourselves that’s so attractive or is it about more than being attractive?

I’m interested to know whether anyone has done a volunteer vacation? Any thoughts? Regrets? Stories? Suggestions?

Until next time…

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