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There seems to be a new tendency in traveling: volunteering vacation. I am not quite sure if I like this: an increasing number of travel agencies sell (yes, sell) trips for young people to go to Africa, South America or Asia to take part in “development aid”. This means that the travelers go to a place like Bolivia to build wells. What they need is no experience or skills, not even language proficiency is required. These travelers can actually buy themselves into this.

The question is: who do they help, the people they build these wells for, or just themselves? This new kind of “developmental aid traveling” seems to me more like a way for rich westerners to buy themselves a clearer conscience for the luxury they are living in. But the problem is: third world countries don’t actually need rich westerners with no connection to the country they travel to, to build wells and stuff. There is plenty of workforce in countries like Bolivia, Nicaragua or Ghana. What they lack are certain skilled workers (engineers) and most of all: funds. So to all you people out there who “want to do good”: Remember that you are most likely stealing jobs off people who can find no occupation. If you do not bring any special skills, if you have no connection to the place you will go for this kind of developmental aid and if you don’t plan to stay for an extended period, you won’t do no good at all. You are just trying to buy yourself a clear conscience.

If you really want to visit these developing countries, they will actually be better off if you do so as an ordinary tourist. And if you want to support local development, please do it in other ways. Buy fair trade goods and support proper aids like microcredits, self-enforcing and cooperative development aids. Avoid any organization with ties to governments (especially the US), as these are known to grant help only under restrictions such as economical requirements that harm a majority of the population (mostly the poorest part). You can help much more in that way, than buying a free conscience with something that only hurts the already unprivileged even more. If you were really serious you would donate 10% of your income to charitable organizations! Think about it.


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