Volunteer Tourism in Tanzania: How it really is


Volunteer tourism is becoming a big thing and better alternative to conventional tourism as it is a means to "do good" for the community in which they travel to. This article specifies two different volunteer tourism organizations called i to i and MondoChallenge who both advertise that they aid in community work with women, teaching and help with development programs, notably business development.

Did they make an impact?
Most volunteers admit that they didn't feel as though they made much of an impact and that the people might actually have benefited that they weren't there as volunteer tourist are cheaper than most conventional tourists.

The organization?
Organizations such as i-to-i ad MondoChallenge did not make an effort to communicate the the volunteers. They place the volunteers in jobs that they did not sign up for and did not give them any support during their stay.i-to-i is also not a non-profit organization where its UK owners take 2/3 of the profits from volunteers whereas the rest stays in Tanzania. MondoChallenge advertise themselves as a non-profit organization however.

The volunteers?
Some volunteers act very leisurely, leaving on vacation or changing jobs without notifying their supervisor. Superiority was also a problem as some volunteers did not appreciate being seen as a subordinate.

Language was the largest obstacle in volunteer travel programs as it decreased efficiency. In terms of teaching, volunteers are placed into classrooms of local schools to teach English, however are usually accompanied by a translator. This environment doesn't allow for student to pay attention. Most find that student were able to learn a bit of English however, their primary language is Kiswahili so teaching them English didn't seem as important to them. Studies did show that performance in English at schools did improve and that the results were getting better at national exams.

Another major problem is the lack of long-term volunteers. Volunteer teachers come to teach for a couple of months each, creating a very choppy curriculum.

Charities are lacking in volunteers and do not want any negative publicity to scare away potentials, therefore organizations are not transparent about their

Charities are more for the volunteers than the people
"...you almost feel you've gained more when you leave - even though people tell you you are so great to be volunteering!"

Implanting realistic expectation?
"My chief concern is that by creating elaborate and word-rich systems that give the impression of wonderful and valuable work, we may actually be doing harm! I would ask you to seriously consider this from a personal point of view, and whilst it may appear a cross between 'valuable work' and 'a game', it is the height of irresponsibility to ignore the real people's lives beneath the charade, not to mention the goodwill and expectations of those that fund these activities" [referring to the volunteers] (MondoChallenge Tanzania volunteer report, spring 2007)

Organizations would upsell the volunteers contributions, leaving them with a sense that they contributed a lot but in actuality, contributed very little.

A lot of volunteers would feel that they were entitled to special treatment for volunteering. One specific volunteer stressed that he was not shown any gratitude for his efforts in Tanzania and that he was not treated with special respected and that he was charged at a higher price than the locals.

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