Voluntourism – Does It Do More Harm Than Good?


A few weeks ago the beloved J.K. Rowling released another Twitter take down; this time it was aimed at the business orphanages abroad that often provoke, and then use, the break-up of families as a means of gaining financially from volunteers and donations.

Voluntourism is becoming blacklisted more and more as revelations of ‘charity’ organisations being far from good-willed come to light. Unfortunately the voices of criticism tend to target the volunteers and tear away at their morality, whilst ignoring the true source of these horrendous activities.

Some international orphanages have caught onto the high profit outcome that can be milked from the volunteering industry. Many even go to the extent of enforcing the division of kids from their families with a small cash incentive just to create a surplus of vulnerable orphan kids. Yet these children are not actually orphaned as it is estimated that out of the two million plus living in institutional care, four out of five have at least one living parents.

Many academics have found in their research that the children are negatively impacted by volunteer interference in orphanages abroad. This interaction can have a detrimental psychology and emotional impact on the child. More often than not, the volunteers although wanting to help are unqualified, untrained and lack any relevant background or experience. The welfare of the children are disregarded as they are used in a seedy transaction for volunteer donations.

But what does this mean for those just wanting to help? Let’s not forget that this whole issue, although tragic, has originated from a good place and good intentions. Unfortunately others have seen it as a means for profit and this willingness to help has become eclipsed by these inhumane and vile groups. “Voluntourism” is not black or white, there is more to it and the whole concept should not be demeaned entirely. There are many organisations abroad created with a non-profit drive and an incentive to help others and those who are interested in being a part of this should do so.

Before going abroad to volunteer it is essential fully research and be sure that the company you are giving your time and money to is funding a good cause and not aiding an immoral one; which leaves those in need even more victimised.


Former English Student | Travel Editor 2016-17 |Current MSc. International Politics | Editor at Wessex Scene for 2017-18.

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