Further to a recent article in The Beaver (the London School of Economics student newspaper), week of 9th October, page 23, looking at the pros and cons of voluntourism I sent the editors the following letter.
Re: Voluntourism in Senegal
It was great to read about Felicity’s recent volunteering experiences in Senegal and the benefits she felt she gained from it, particularly an insight in to Senegalese life, a greater appreciation of the lifestyle she lives in the UK and the many new friends that she made.
However, it was a real shame was to read that she felt her work lacked supervision, she was part of one big Projects Abroad photo-shoot and that “any kind of positive impact was kept to a minimum at the expense of maximising profits”.
Through my work with the Volunteer Centre @ LSE Careers and KickStart Ghana I see many good and bad experiences of volunteering overseas. Many come back frustrated that their impact wasn’t as large as they hoped or that the huge amounts of money they donated in good faith never reach the deserving causes they want to support. However, many others return having gained new career experiences, made a real difference and seen their donations spent in the right areas.
In the Volunteer Centre we always encourage people to research, research and research before they commit to an overseas volunteering trip. On our website we have an article dedicated to what to look for in an organisation that sends volunteers overseas and the type of questions you shouldn’t be afraid to ask them. We also offer seminars and 1-1 appointments with students who are thinking about volunteering overseas (or in the UK) about what to look out for and how to find an opportunity best suited to them.
I hope Felicity’s experience hasn’t put her off from potentially volunteering overseas again as it can be a wonderful thing to do. Ensuring that the right organisation and opportunity are picked for you are absolutely key to a fulfilling experience though.
LSE Volunteer Coordinator
This post was originally written by me for the London School of Economics, who have full copyright. See the original post.