In middle school, I remember hearing about the local church visiting a rural town in Mexico with a group of volunteers for a week to build houses. At the time, I was impressed. Not only did I not know how to find these sort of opportunities on my own, but I remember thinking how noble it was to put yourself outside your comfort zone in such a productive way.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case with voluntourism.
Voluntourism is the act of participating in a short-term volunteer project while visiting a developing country. More often than not, it’s white people visiting a country with a non-white population to work on a tangible project that can be completed, like building a school, building an orphanage or running a medical center. They come for a few weeks, get done what they came to do and leave, as if anything has really changed.