Potential problems with volunteering-as-tourism programs include:

  • Creating one-off projects which have little long-term impact - "development by monument."
  • Forgetting that volunteers are NOT free - they take time and resources to administer.
  • Giving things away creates dependence; as with any form of subsidy, there is a danger of disempowering the people we intend to help.
  • Monitoring projects poorly or not at all (see Monitoring and evaluation).
  • Giving unskilled volunteers jobs that require skills. Young volunteers may be brimming with confidence, but may not have the skills needed.
  • Forgetting to make the rest of the trip responsible, from checking who owns the hotels to buying carbon offsets.
  • Fostering paternalism - the idea that "we privileged people from rich countries" can come in and fix things.
  • Thinking that good intentions are enough. They are definitely not - good intentions can have disastrous outcomes.

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