Think Twice Before Volunteering in Africa
Before I went to Uganda for volunteering and for a research on volunteer tourism for my thesis at the same time, I had many hesitations. Volunteering in Africa, the way it is nowadays, is very problematical. Organizations in many cases do not act deliberately but only in their own benefits.
Problems of Volunteering in Africa
- Believe or not, volunteering can really have negative consequences for local communities. For instance, short-term volunteering can be harmful more than advantageous, especially when working with children, who are the most vulnerable groups. Many volunteer organisations strive for short-term volunteering, as more volunteers mean more money for organisation.
- Another problem is not involving local communities in organisation’s projects. Organizations should always ask locals for their opinions and let them bring their suggestions and contribution. After all, those projects take part among those communities.
- Before starting a volunteer work, volunteers usually do not get (enough) information about guest country, local community, its culture, habits and lifestyle. Also, usually they do not get any guidance on how to teach, how to work in a group and how to react in difficult situations. Training and qualifying should be part of every volunteer work!
- Paying money to organisations is dubious. What do you think about 2000$ for one month of volunteer work somewhere in the middle of Zambia, Uganda or Malawi? It should be admitted that those amounts of money are absolutely too high. So, the question is: Where does this money go? Fair layout of this money and payout in purposes for which organisations claim, become questionable to many of us.
Do not get me wrong, payable volunteering should anyways be mandatory, but in normal amounts. After all, many people go to Africa to travel and maybe not necessarily to contribute something to local community.
Volunteering in Global South became a fad and some organisations are exploiting this is order to make business. Everything goes in a vicious circle: volunteers pay huge amounts of money, Westerners (mostly) grab the opportunity and found a volunteer organisation in Africa …
Also, there is still presented colonialist perception on African people, i.e. they are poor, they need our help, our way of education, our way of living etc.
Volunteering vs. Voluntourism
Whoever decides to go for a volunteer work to Africa should carefully inform himself about organisation’s service because not only good action is important, but also the whole volunteering’s background. Also, volunteering is usually combined with tourism, it is never only volunteering. This should not be problematic, as far as we are conscious about our presence, our action and tasks among local community.