Tag Archives: humanitarian travel

Volunteer tourism: Help or Hurt?


[My trip diary will continue on Monday. But this blog presents a related topic.]

I heard a NPR news story about volunteer tourism and who it helps most (listen here). If you have gone on, heard about, or given to short-term missions projects, you likely have considered the question of whether it is really worth the expense. Are locals really being helped when huge amounts of cash must be used to fly and house outsiders on their trip. At times I have wavered. Should this 30,000 dollars be better used by giving it to local ministries and letting them hire local workers to do what outsiders might do.

Sometimes this is true. But there are a few things to consider:

1. The money probably wouldn’t be raised without sending the outsiders.

2. Having outsiders come and see provides much encouragement.

3. Developing world-minded outsiders (read Americans) can have significant and ongoing impact.

4. Some trips are better than others (as the news story suggests) in that giving goes to local ministries. On our recent trip we stayed at ministry guesthouses which support those ministries and provide jobs to local people. We paid small businesses for services whenever possible.

No doubt some trips are harmful, especially when they promise but do not deliver or continue to support imbalance of power. But many trips do significant benefit for all involved.

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