The Controversy that is Voluntourism – A Ghana Perspective

Voluntourism. It’s a word I hadn't encountered until I was already signed up for a voluntourism project in Accra, Ghana.

Of the mind to do something good, I was now being bombarded with articles denouncing the practice of Westerners running off to shantytowns to “save” the locals. What was meant to be a meaningful experience was now overshadowed with the idea that I was doing something so intrinsically wrong, so ethnocentric.

I took a step back and had a hard think about whether or not I should even go. Eventually, as the travel and visa was already arranged and I needed to stop moving after nine months before my soul withered and died, I decided to continue on as planned.

There are dozens upon dozens of articles denouncing the idea of voluntourism; White Savior Barbie on Instagram manages to encapsulate all that is wrong with the practice in a humorous way, but I wondered if perhaps they were missing the point, or at least part of it. Determined to either make a success of my experience or gain better understanding through failure, off I went. And this is what I learned.

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My Volunteer Experience in Africa

I’m not sure what I had in mind when I signed up to volunteer in Ghana. Okay, that’s a bit of a lie. Somewhere during the process, the image of me cuddling snuggly, serenely cherubic infants may have floated past in a daydream. The reality quickly quashed that fantasy.

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