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voluntourism: continue the conversation at home

 

Last week, Didi & Dhai debuted our first travel guide, featuring Pokhara, Nepal, the city that hosts the safe home where I volunteered for a summer. Compassion as a lifestyle is Didi & Dhai’s core value and, we find, travel is a wonderful way to deepen your understanding of other cultures and people around the world. We want our city guides to inspire you to get out of your comfort zone, educate yourself by exploration, and actually engage in the communities you visit rather than just pass through. Be a participant, not a passerby.

I have always seen travel as a powerful tool that allows people to maintain a global mindset and culturally aware lifestyle, which is a large part of why I turned to voluntourism. For many, volunteering abroad poses a very attractive scenario -- the volunteer gets to do good and feel good about it while also satiating their appetite for travel. It seems like a simple approach that has the potential to benefit everyone, but as a volunteer, it is important to recognize the fragility of the situation and enter into it with the genuine intention of making a positive impact.

Nepal is ranked as one of the most economically disadvantaged countries in the world and because tourism is its largest industry, it has taken advantage of the voluntourism boom along with many other countries. Even if tourists have healthy motives for volunteering, their time spent in that location is often fleeting before they return home. How much change can be made with a constant flux of short-term volunteers? And how many of these volunteers continue to help once they leave?

My initial experience of voluntourism taught me that we need to continue the conversation at home, which is ultimately why I created Didi & Dhai. Voluntourism doesn’t necessarily need to come to an end when the trip does. 

Helping one another is a lifelong journey and should be deeply rooted in the decisions we make. In the past few years, there has been a revolution in business in which we are seeing more and more socially conscious companies who are driven by compassion. There is now so much opportunity to shop responsibly and make purchases that improve others’ lives. This surge in businesses that give back allows people who don’t have the chance to volunteer abroad to engage in the global community by supporting these companies and their missions.

We need to take advantage of this movement and learn about other cultures, people, and the struggles they face. With more awareness and compassion, we have the power to support one another and make change.

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