International Volunteer Day! 

International Volunteer Day! 

by Alberte Egholm
International Volunteer Day!

Volunteering is where compassion meets solidarity. 

Today marks International Volunteer Day on the 5th of December.  Rising inequalities worldwide imply that we must work together to find common solutions. International Volunteer Day highlights the power of our collective humanity to drive positive change through volunteerism. Volunteers, drawn together by solidarity, help find solutions to urgent development challenges and for the common good.

At, our work and voice connect to the tourism industry. Therefore, on this International Volunteer Day, we zoom in on the concept of Volunteer tourism!

What is volunteer tourism? 

elefant - International Volunteer Day

Volunteer tourism is when people travel abroad to a destination most often considered developing to offer support and help. Volunteer tourism has many positive outcomes and can be a force for good in several ways:

  •  Many volunteer tourism projects involve working with locals, areas, or animals who are, to some extent, ignored or neglected by society in some way. The work and effort made by volunteers play a part in improving the well-being and livelihoods of the host society and environment. 
  • Many of the host communities of volunteer projects are not typically the most visited destinations for other forms of tourism, such as business, leisure, and sports. Therefore, financial support from volunteer tourism can play an essential part in the communities. The communities do not benefit financially from tourism as other destinations and communities may.
  • Volunteer tourists can bring valuable skills to host communities that locals appreciate learning. For example, teaching English is a common voluntary project and provides host communities with basic knowledge of the English language. In addition, hosting volunteers provide host communities with opportunities to learn about other societies and cultures. 
  • Likewise, many volunteers learn valuable skills and acquire knowledge about the cultures of the host communities where they volunteer. This personal learning level heightens cultural sensitivity and awareness. 
  • Volunteer tourism enables more cross-cultural understanding by combining cultures and world views. More cross-cultural understanding and appreciation can help to reduce cultural and social boundaries and resistance. 

Possible negative impacts of volunteer tourism

International Volunteer Day

However, there are two sides to the coin. While volunteer tourism can substantially benefit host communities and volunteers, researchers and tourism stakeholders sometimes critique the volunteer tourism industry and point out some negative impacts.

Volunteering is a long-standing activity, and volunteer projects are predominantly philanthropic. But when volunteering is combined with tourism, this can sometimes change the form of volunteering.

Here are a few essential factors to be aware of concerning volunteering tourism. 

  • Sometimes, the trend and aim of volunteer tourism shift away from altruistic activity into the arms of tour operators, who profit from providing the volunteering experience. Since tour operators are profit-driven, the end goal of helping those in need risks being down-prioritized. While many sincere and determined volunteer organizations exist, examples of profits being swallowed up by commercial volunteer tourism organizations have been seen. 
  • When communities receive adequate money, and the goal of helping those in need is the sincere top priority for volunteer organizations, volunteer tourism projects sometimes risk supporting a cycle of dependence. Communities can risk becoming overly reliant, relying on money and help from volunteer tourism. This makes it difficult for the communities to gain self-sufficient momentum. 
  • Lastly, many volunteers are overly motivated by self-centered interests. Examples are advancing their careers, enhancing CVs, or having an adventure rather than real altruistic intentions. In these cases, this can have negative consequences for the conditions, quality, and determinism of the help provided to the host communities. 

Are you considering doing volunteer tourism?

International Volunteer Day

If you plan a volunteer tourism journey, the above should not scare you away. Instead, this blog post highlights the importance and necessity of researching the organizations you are considering. There are many excellent volunteer organizations and projects to participate in! By researching beforehand, you can avoid volunteering with organizations and projects where the money and work you provide do not adequately benefit the host community. Therefore:

  • Consider how the money you pay is spent by the organizations facilitating the volunteering projects and whether the organizations are working with local workers instead of taking jobs away. 
  • Look into whether the volunteer organizations prioritize supporting and building up the host communities responsibly, where the communities do not become overly dependent on volunteer tourism. 
  • Before choosing a volunteer tourism project, consider your motivation and why you are doing it. Choose a cause you’re passionate about. Prioritize projects where you can use some of your strengths, not improve your weaknesses. This way, you can participate in the volunteer project and help the host community or project receivers in the best possible and meaningful way. 

With all this said. Do your research, go out there, drive positive change, and make the world a better place through volunteerism!

Happy International Volunteer Day!  Read more about International Volunteer Day here!

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