Don’t be a voluntourist!

By Vadim Dovganyuk

As the holiday season is coming up again, so will probably there once again be a rise in voluntourism.
Like most organizations are already voicing, I call out to not go out to volunteer in institutions, like children’s homes and orphanages.
The question that probably will be asked is: “Why not?”
Well, to describe it in simple words:
You are shattering stability, giving expectations that you can’t live up to, you lack commitment, and you will cause psychological damage.

In the recent year, I often wrote against anti-institutionalization campaigns, mainly based on terminology and understanding.
However, this is one of those moments that I do agree with these campaigns.
To understand, I have lived about 14 years in institutions because my parents abandoned me completely, I am a true foundling as the word once was intended.
In those years living in institutions, a lot of damage has been done to me, which is the reason why I still am in therapy.
That damage includes parts that were caused by voluntourists who came for brief moments of time, and disappeared thereafter to never be seen again, even though trust was already put into him, her, or even them.
However, it doesn’t stop there actually, as I learned by doing actual volunteering, not through voluntourism, three quarters of a year at children’s homes in Moscow.
For those who read my blog on a regular basis, talk to me often on social media, or know me in real life, this shouldn’t actually need repeating.
Still, for those who are not aware:
As I had to stop volunteering based on my personal situation, which was that my adoptive family moved back to Ukraine, I ended up in a situation, which lead to the adoption of 1 of the boys who I supported on a dedicated basis throughout my time of volunteering, who is now officially my son…
Don’t get me wrong, I have no regrets of the adoption, it probably has been the best decision I made in my life, but the situation, that I do not wish to explain into detail, forced me to actually adopt him, even though I still had the ability to decline.
And this is a situation any volunteer and voluntourist could end up in, and I dare to say that 99% of the people would have done the opposite after, by this shattering the hopes of a child completely.
Which is all I will say, as I know I often end up writing lectures, instead of simple articles.

Now, of course, I could have made some amazing explanation with reasons and everything why voluntourists are bad, but I will keep that to the organizations who are doing incredible work.
Instead, let me just keep it simple:
As a voluntourist you open not only yourself up to psychological damage, but also every single child you will get into contact with during your time at an institution.
If you truly want to help, dedicate your time and become an actual social worker, for example a caregiver, and work locally, as at every country around the world there is a need for more dedicated social workers.
Or financially adopt a child with the ability to write letters to the child, and possibly even send a gift.
Eventually, there are enough trustworthy organizations who offers this, and you will end up factually helping a child, instead of intruding in his or her life.
As don’t forget, you are actually intruding into a child’s circle of trust, as while you see it as a great experience, most children do not. I know I did not like voluntourists, and still do not…

I urge you, if you even plan to be voluntourist, don’t, and look for a way to actually help, as voluntourism only causes suffering…