Can Voluntourism Get More #F—ing Creative Please?

I have been taken by a couple of campaigns addressing real-world, societal challenges of our day, which have surfaced across the planet over the last bit of time. These campaigns are creative. These campaigns are poignant. These campaigns speak to us with the veracity of being, and that vociferously!

A question is raised, however: “Why do we not see more #F—ing creativity in the voluntourism space?!?”


#notabugsplat Campaign Image

Campaign #1: Anti-Drone Campaign in Pakistan – #notabugsplat

Talk about creative!

I am absolutely humbled by what the people of Pakistan have coordinated through this effort with French artists to bring humanity, not just U.S. drone operators, to an awareness of the toll that force-based, drone strikes have on non-combatant populations. awakens us to an issue that few of us question.

I do not know the first thing about how to address this issue. What I do know, from the information on the website, is that a group of French artists traveled to Pakistan and collaborated with the local community and with the Foundation for Fundamental Rights to place this photo on the ground – talk about a unique and utterly creative expression of voluntourism!

Campaign #2: Addressing Poverty – #fuckthepoor

#fuckthepoorIt isn’t every day that we use the “f—” word to express our disdain with the challenges associated with raising funds to address poverty. Yet, the clever folks at the Pilion Trust Charity decided to brave the streets of London with a gentleman dressed as you see on the right. The responses from Londoners were, as you might imagine, a bit on the “how dare you!” side. Of course, when the sign is turned over, and the gentleman asks for donations to “help the poor,” virtually no one steps forward.

I wonder, on some level, if this is what is happening with voluntourism. I do not think that voluntourists would don t-shirts when they head to Haiti or Uganda or India with the words “#F— The Poor” on them. But would it be such a bad idea to get the attention of the “naysayers” of the world who feel as though voluntourists do nothing? Contribute nothing? Sustain nothing?

Final Thoughts…

I am not one to say that voluntourism is “THE” answer to addressing the challenges of our day. However, I do think because we are virtually non-creative when it comes to voluntourism that we really are not yet able to see what voluntourism can do.

We seem to follow in the footsteps of so many other efforts to volunteer and serve that have been happening around the world for decades, if not centuries. When are we going to step forward and really start tapping into the co-creative energy of a growing body of humans who really do give a damn?!? So much so that they will give part, if not all, of their holiday/vacation to volunteer in a given destination. Must we continue to demand that they do these things according to some “standard”? Instead of pushing the limits of our creativity and exploring what may be possible?

I keep hearing the word innovation and I am just not seeing it in the voluntourism space. We keep wanting to align our efforts with “development/aid” or with “charity” or with “alternative breaks” or “teaching English.” How unoriginal is that?!? We want voluntourism to look familiar, safe, and non-controversial. WHY?!? Why are we so wedded to voluntourism being like everything else that already exists in the world?

I want to see more of what the two campaigns referenced above represent in the voluntourism space. I want to see us pushing the boundaries of our creative capacity and start thinking about collaborations with communities like that expressed by #NotABugSplat. If it takes voluntourists wearing t-shirts that say #F—ThePoor, well, does the means justify the end? If it gets us to be more creative in our approaches to voluntourism, perhaps a global social experiment is indeed in order!

I also think that one of the most under-valued realizations of voluntourism are the voluntourists who return to their respective homes. Creativity for these folks is utterly non-existent! Start connecting with the fire in the belly of those who have been moved by these experiences. Sear the hearts of indifference with the heat of new-found awareness pumping through the blood of these voluntourists! Stop seeing voluntourism as a short-term travel/holiday and understand that quite a number of returned voluntourists have new perspectives on that which is unfolding in this world of ours. See voluntourism beyond the footprint of the journey. See it for the step before the next step in the life-journey of the voluntourist and that of the community residents who host them!


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