Read the speech “Voluntourism: An Opportunity Too Good to be True” and consider the advertisement “The Opportunity of a Lifetime.”


Read the speech “Voluntourism: An Opportunity Too Good to be True” and consider the advertisement “The Opportunity of a Lifetime.” Then, answer the question.

Voluntourism: An Opportunity Too Good to be True

A Speech to the Student Body of Evergreen High

[1] Picture this: It’s Spring Break, and you fly off to some country where there’s lush rainforests and beautiful, blue coastlines to explore. There’s also people in need, so you decide to blend your vacation with volunteering. Volunteering as a tourist, or voluntourism, seems like a great way to explore new regions and help people at the same time. However, this “volunteer plus travel” experience can actually harm local communities. While many teens might view traveling and volunteering abroad as a worthwhile adventure, there are more genuine and effective ways to make a difference.

[2] Most would agree that volunteering in general is a worthy use of time. However, what if you found out the children you are “helping” are actually being kept in poor conditions so voluntourists will spend money to come to the local area? Dale Rolfe, a supporter of ethical voluntourism, explains the shocking reality that “Animal sanctuaries and orphanages are often manufactured for the voluntourist…encouraging a cycle of exploiting the very animals and children the volunteers are trying to help.”

[3] Proponents of the “volunteer plus travel” experience also argue that traveling to new places builds character and is a valuable way to learn about different cultures. With voluntourism, however, participants often pursue experiences that are all about them. For example, they sign up to build a school for a gold star on their resume, but they have no real building skills and take jobs away from local construction workers (Schulten). Or, they arrive to teach English but instead take selfies with the locals. One world traveler and ethical voluntourist believes voluntourism “can perpetuate small minded views of the world by taking insulated, fake, and structured experiences and selling them as unabridged and eye opening” (Carlos). The voluntour experience is a mirage. The voluntourist’s eyes are not opened to real life at the destination, and lasting change is not achieved.

[4] If you want a genuine experience where you can see a lasting impact, there are better options than voluntourism. You can volunteer in your local community. Give an hour every week to your town’s animal rescue. Serve monthly dinners to the homeless. Be a reliable, positive influence on a child who needs a mentor. Studies show that volunteering and forming lasting relationships with those you help has a positive impact on your physical and emotional health. In fact, blood pressure is reduced, memory is improved, and rates of depression are reduced (Michaels).

[5] There is another reason to look into alternatives to voluntourism. Did you know the average “voluntour” travel package costs $3,400 (Rolfe)? Could that travel money be better spent? If the world’s citizens are your passion, it could go to an international organization. If you care about education, your funds can be used to buy books for students in faraway lands. If you want villagers to have clean water, contribute funds to local efforts to dig wells. If you want to experience a different culture, travel to the country as a guest, and learn from the locals how you can best help them after you’ve returned home. But do not voluntour.

[6] In reality, there are better ways to make a difference. Voluntourism might appear to be an adventure that blends travel and helping others, but it does little except provide a costly, superficial experience that might actually do more harm than good. So, volunteer where you are most needed-at home, where you can stay to see the job through and form genuine, lasting relationships. Choose a beautiful coastline closer to home and send the travel money you saved to an international organization that will put it to good use. Whatever you do, don’t turn someone else’s hardship into your vacation.

“The Opportunity of a Lifetime”

Both texts (the speech and the advertisement) address voluntourism. However, each text has a different purpose, which is reflected by the details each writer chose to include. Consider the words and images used.


Read the speech “Voluntourism: An Opportunity Too Good to be True” and consider the advertisement “The Opportunity of a Lifetime.”