Cyberspace has been abuzz with commentary on voluntourism over the past couple of weeks. And, I think this is something that we can all celebrate on some level. Though we may have our difficulties and challenges with the convergence of travel & tourism and voluntary service, it appears that we are all speaking a common language underneath it all – “Let’s do this better,” whatever “this” is.
Of course, the vast majority of the opinions on this subject are generated from every angle except that of host communities. We will attempt to address this beginning in August with a project we will unveil in the near future. In the meantime, I thought I would take a moment to share a comment I posted on The Daily Banter which was listed as “comment of the week” in response to a post by Kyle Burgess entitled “The Problem with Ignorant and Delusional Little White Girls (and Boys).”
Thanks for taking the time to post.
The beauty of all of this, as Ken Wilber would say, is that “everyone is right.” To what degree they “are right” is something worthy of exploration.
I like the fact that Ms. Biddle had the courage to put this out there. Do I hold what she offers as something we can generalize across the entire world, much less the “white” world, no, I do not.
All of humanity is making an individual and collective effort to awaken, to expand, to attain enlightenment – whatever that is. The challenge is we all have to be present to watch the awkward steps which each of us, and all of us, take along that journey. It can be devastatingly ugly to observe if there is even a slight bit of judgment running through our veins.
If, however, we can watch and observe and embrace that unfolding journey, similarly to what we might do with a child learning to crawl or walk, we might discover some self-compassion and collective-compassion for each and all of us respectively.
Voluntourism can be the ugliest thing in the world; it can also be the most vibrant – spiritually, mentally, and physically – inspirational experience for all who enter the sphere of influence which makes that experience possible in the first place. The beauty is that each of us has a choice as to how that unfolds and the perspectives we take when observing it.
Likewise, we can improve voluntourism by learning how to manage it better on behalf of all stakeholders. This is not an easy task. It takes great courage. It also requires that we not look at voluntourism as an answer, a solution, but as a stepping stone in our own collective unfoldment. The more we can see it for what it is, the less we will judge it, and ourselves.
If we can take away anything from this comment and the comments and blog posts and tweets on voluntourism which have erupted across cyberspace over the past couple of weeks, let it be that voluntourism is “a stepping stone in our own collective unfoldment.” If we hold it as a finish line, which is what we as finite beings are prone to do, we will lose sight of what voluntourism can be in our world. We will aim to place it on a pedestal or in a trash heap, rather than experience it as a next step in our journey towards a better world.
Our struggle is an honorable one. We point the finger at voluntourism because this is what humans do – we love to project our own inner conundrums and challenges on the world around us. Instead, we can use voluntourism as a catalyst to unearth our internal struggles with a world that is both unceasingly promising and seemingly abysmal simultaneously. The tension around that paradox is quite often more than we can take. We lash out at anything – ourselves, our friends, our family, our nation, our world, and even voluntourism. It is part of growing up and waking up. And all of it, however unseemly it may be in our present awareness, is monumentally significant in our personal and collective growth & development.
So, here’s to voluntourism – a catalyst for human growth & development in the 21st Century!