The word “voluntourism” is a term used to refer to one of the fastest-growing trends in the travel industry today. Volunteer tourism was initiated by larger, more-established organizations such as World Vision, UNICEF and Save the Children in order to give opportunities for kind-hearted and enthusiastic people to spend their time spreading a little love to an impoverished, war-torn, or devastated country.
Now there are many groups that organize volunteer tours throughout the world, usually bringing young people to help targeted communities build houses, teach young children, plant crops, and conserve wildlife.
While well-intentioned, this growing industry has a dark side to it. Responsible tourism experts are even saying that these untrained young people who are sent to support developing countries do more harm than good for both the communities and volunteers themselves.
While a lot of good has come out of these endeavours, many are still sceptical. Many agree that there are significant social and economic implications of voluntourism. This article, however, will discuss the actual dangers that volunteers can experience.
- Sickness or injury
Volunteers usually travel on hazardous terrain or undeveloped roads. The place where they are volunteering may have insufficient hygiene facilities, making them vulnerable to germs and bacteria. The stress of travelling to a different place may also take a toll on their health or make their immune system vulnerable.
As a result, sickness or injury might befall the volunteer. Responsible and well-managed volunteer organizations usually operate not far from medical clinics or hospitals that cater to tourists and foreigners. It is also a good idea for the volunteer to take out comprehensive travel insurance that covers emergency medical expenses.
- Political upheaval or Civil Unrest
When you go to a developing country, you may also run the risk of experiencing political upheaval or civil unrest. However, a responsible volunteer organization will not risk bringing a group to a country that is prone to such dangers. In cases like these, you and the rest of the volunteer group will have to stay in a safe place. In extreme cases, you might have to be repatriated to your home country.
- Geographic/ Climatic Conditions or Forces of Nature
Volunteer work is often done in countries that have just experienced tsunamis, huge typhoons, and massive earthquakes. When you do volunteer work, you may run the risk of being exposed to unprecedented climatic conditions.
The place may also be prone to forces of nature such as earthquake aftershocks, flooding, and volcanic explosions. These travel dangers may be avoided if the volunteer organization does its homework well and makes sure that the place is already declared safe. However, you can’t really predict when these things happen. This is when having travel insurance will really be beneficial for the volunteer.
Looking at the top three dangers of volunteers, maybe you should ask yourself, “Is volunteering abroad for a good cause worth the travel risk?” Comprehensive travel insurance will be able to provide coverage for medical expenses, repatriation, lost or stolen luggage and other unprecedented occurrences.
Make sure that you choose a reliable, established and trustworthy volunteer organization. You also have to comply with your government’s travel advisory and not go to a country that has political or civil unrest. If done responsibly and safely, international volunteering can be a positive force of change.
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