Volunteer tourism is ''the role of international travel in promoting understanding and trust among people of different cultures. . . a foundation on which to build improved relationships towards the goal of world peace and prosperity", this quotation captures the spirit of the Volunteer tourism. In the real life there are more need to be done than only volunteering to achieve the goal of world peace and prosperity. Volunteer tourism is a step forward to create unique opportunities for tourists to explore inequities in social between the countries as well as in environmental and political issues with the message of improving cross-cultural understandings and reducing racial, cultural and social boundaries by participating in activities in their host communities.
However, in there are inevitable concepts of rich and poor, judging and criticising between the volunteers and aid-recipients. The concern is mostly in among of young people as they are vulnerable and easy to be affected as many of the volunteer tourism projects involve working with children, which creates tension with host communities. A 'Trojan Horse' example has been compared to the situation mentioned above as the communities embrace the habits without realising the potential consequences. Generally volunteer tourism projects are one time off and the aid is offered to the destinations that appear to be most pitiful and poorest. After the projects are over there is no sign of if the host community can pick up where the volunteers left them and continue to survive, which the values and effectiveness are questioned as there are no guarantees for long term impacts.
There are four components in volunteer tourists' experience: Ordinary life, episodic task, challenges and personal development. Volunteer tourists has been compared to heroes as people leave their ordinary life to receive tasks and trying to overcome challenges in their journey of life changing personal development. It depends heavily on what stage of life course a potential volunteer is in to determine the values, which are important decision makers in choosing a volunteer tourism destination and organisation.
According to Geckogo's Volunteer service online survey in April 2009 about volunteers expectations and experiences in volunteer work from all over the world (51% Europeans, 24% North Americans, 13% Asia/Pacific and 12% Middle East/not defined) were mostly interested in mid-to long-term opportunities for example from two weeks to one month or more than one month. There are three most important factors for choosing where to go were the usefulness of the projects, a personal learning experience and unique experience. Almost all of the respondents found their experiences meaningful in some way. In the opinions of the respondents the best parts of volunteering were for example being able to help out others and make the world a better place. For the worst part of volunteering were for example the natural environment such as insects, heat, diseases, being alone while trying to adapt to the local culture, not being able to do as much as they wanted and leaving.
"The volunteer tourist contribution is bilateral, in that the most important development that may occur in the volunteer tourist experience is that of a personal nature - that of a greater awareness of the self as a global citizen". According to Dr. Wearing volunteering is a great opportunity for people to take part in local activities and interact with the community, which can benefit both host and tourists in volunteering projects.
Volunteer tourism is mostly concentrated on the positive impacts spreading love and peace that the potential harms of the projects are being putting aside. For example, the issues in volunteer tourism are the host communities who appear to be most pitiful and poorest will get the aid as well as one time off projects, which the after results are unknown. We need to have more considerations regarding these matters towards volunteer destinations and not only advertise the most pitiful host community to attract tourists. The balance between the potential volunteer destinations needs to be measured in order to spread the love and peace throughout the world. Overall, the involvement of the volunteer tourists are meaningful experiences as you feel like being a hero for the less privileged. The rewarding feeling is when you get back home with the full of knowledge of becoming a better citizen to the world.
Geckogo, Volunteer Travel Insights 2009, available online http://www.geckogo.com/volunteer/report2009, [accessed 5th May 2012]
Tomazos, K. and Butler, R (2010): The volunteer tourist as 'hero',
Current Issues in Tourism, 13:4, 363-380
Wearing, S. (2001) Volunteer tourism: experiences that make a difference, Wallingford, Oxon New York : CABI