On Volunteering & Vocation

Where's the Spirit?

Voluntourists Needed: Apply Within

by Leila de Bruyne
The New York Times

What is voluntourism? Is it detrimental to meaningful change in the world? Or, rather, can it serve as an entry into social justice work? Several months ago, de Bruyne wrote a critique on short-term volunteer escapades for the privileged. While much of what she articulated then stands true, she offers a different perspective in this post that reflects of the role voluntourism has played in cultivating her orientation to the world. Contemplating the transformation of social consciousness, she shares how “often times, these moments occur while working alongside the poorest of the poor, in classrooms and in kitchens, where — in a quiet moment — we are faced with the realities of our circumstances: experiences that suggest that the only thing separating ‘us’ from ‘them’ is the infamous birth lottery. It’s here that we can make a quiet commitment to incorporate this awareness into our real lives, beyond a vacation.”

I believe in seeing the world and finding out what it needs. We have to. Because there is only one thing that is worse than girls who ‘help Africa’: girls who don’t.
— Leila de Bruyne