Skip to main content

Challenging “Voluntourism”: Raleigh International's Approach

Voluntourism combines the concepts of “volunteering” and “tourism,” and broadly refers to the opportunity to explore while contributing to volunteer or charitable work. But voluntourism can be a complex issue, with some organisations being  criticised for fuelling harmful practices and failing to deliver lasting benefits.

In response to these concerns, Raleigh International aim to challenge the voluntourism experience – aiming to create more sustainable, responsible, and meaningful opportunities for volunteers and communities, while also educating travellers on how to be more thoughtful.

What is Voluntourism?

Voluntourism typically involves short-term volunteer experiences in various locations worldwide. Volunteers can participate in a range of activities, from teaching English to building infrastructure, wildlife conservation, and more. However, several issues have emerged, challenging the effectiveness and ethics of voluntourism.

4 Important Voluntourism Ethical Considerations

1. Short-term Impact

Many voluntourism projects are short-lived, often lasting only a few weeks. The brevity of these engagements limits their long-term impact on the communities they aim to assist.

2. Unskilled Volunteers

Volunteers, though well-intentioned, are often unskilled in the tasks they’re assigned, making their contributions less effective or even counterproductive.

3. Neocolonialism

Voluntourism can perpetuate neocolonial attitudes, with Western volunteers often making decisions without understanding the local context.

4. Profit-driven Ventures

Some organizations profit heavily from voluntourism, with only a fraction of the funds reaching the local communities.

How are Raleigh’s programmes different?

We have been challenging voluntourism by prioritizing sustainable development, community engagement, and impactful volunteer experiences. Here’s how Raleigh International is combating the issues by focusing on the positive benefits of voluntourism.

1. Long-term Commitment and Sustainable Development

Raleigh Expedition projects are run over several months and years, allowing Raleigh to form deeper connections with the communities we work with. Through long-term involvement in the communities and long running relationships with local project partners, Raleigh teams foster trust and sustainable development,  allowing for more permanent work to be undertaken and making greater lasting impact These projects may cover sustainable agriculture, improving access to education and conservation efforts.

2. Skill-based Volunteering is Key

We know how important it is that Venturers have the skills required for the project work they are doing. Through training, we upskill out Venturers so that they are capable of the work they are set to do. Raleigh Venturers participate in training sessions and learn about the equipment they’ll be using throughout the duration of their project. This ensures that the Venturers can contribute effectively to the projects they’re assigned to, enhancing the quality and impact of their work. For more complex project work, our project partners take the lead and we use local experts to fill the skills gap that our Venturers may have.

3. Community Involvement is at The Heart of Everything

Raleigh International emphasises collaboration with local communities. Before starting any project, Raleigh staff in our Expedition countries consult with community members and are led by partner organisations to identify their specific needs and goals. For example, our Costa Rica teamwork with various project partners, from local Park Rangers, to SINAC (National System of Conservation Areas) and School Directors.

4. Championing Holistic Development

A Raleigh Expedition programme incorporates plenty of opportunity for personal development. This is not at the cost of project impact. Venturers gain leadership, teamwork, and cultural sensitivity skills, and also build an understanding of global issues. These skills are invaluable for any future career prospect, but also makes you an effective volunteer who can create real and meaningful impact on a Raleigh project (or any other project!).

5. Our No-phone Policy Prioritises What’s Important

Volunteering is not about Instagram or getting likes, but about making a real and meaningful difference. That’s why we stand by the power of the digital detox. With project impact and the wellbeing and safety of our volunteers continuing to be paramount to us at Raleigh, we believe that a ‘No Phones on Project’ approach can provide everyone taking part in our Expeditions with a digital detox so they can focus on what’s important.

Volunteering Opportunities

International volunteering has a powerful force for good. Raleigh Venturers have created a more responsible, impactful, and sustainable way for volunteers to make a positive difference in the world. By emphasizing long-term commitments, skill-based volunteering, community engagement, and ethical funding, we know that volunteering with Raleigh can give you the chance to be a force for for positive change.

If you’re passionate about making a difference while exploring the world, Raleigh offers a compelling volunteering opportunities. We’re happy to help you choose a responsible program.

Learn more about our volunteering experiences: the Raleigh Expedition


Need more information about Expedition?

Book a call

Not decided yet and need help? Arrange a call with us at a time that works for you and we’ll answer your questions.

Join an online info event

Have your questions answered, meet other volunteers and find out what Expedition is really like from an alumni.

Download a guide

Find out all about Raleigh International and Expedition in our helpful information guide.