Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • "What's wrong with volunteer travel?", you ask;

  • well, I believe the growing practice of sending young people abroad to volunteer

  • is setting us up for failure.

  • I'm going to tell you about my practices, my experience volunteering,

  • some of the trends that I've seen,

  • and also some ideas I have for how we might be able to improve this.

  • There's a Cambodian phrase that says,

  • "If you plant papayas, you can't get mangoes."

  • I think that a lot of volunteer travel right now

  • is offering really short-term solutions for complex problems,

  • and yet, we're really disappointed

  • when we're not getting long-term development results,

  • like when you get a papaya, and you're expecting a sweet, juicy mango.

  • We're not only failing the youth that we're sending abroad

  • and the communities that they aim to be serving,

  • but we're also harming our collective futures

  • because if the next generation doesn't have tools that we need

  • for sustainable development in the future,

  • we're in trouble.

  • Volunteer travel is one of the biggest growth sectors in the tourism market,

  • and millions of young people go abroad to volunteer each year, I was one of them.

  • I even set up an organization in Cambodia

  • that's taken hundreds of people over to help.

  • We started in 2005, when some friends and I wanted to bike across Cambodia.

  • We were going to teach children about the environment, and health,

  • while raising money for what we thought

  • would be the best way to improve education:

  • to build a school.

  • The thing is, we didn't know much about the environment,

  • didn't know much about health,

  • and definitely knew nothing about Cambodian education,

  • yet we got pats on our back, and we had funds in our pocket,

  • and we were off to save the world.

  • When I arrived in Cambodia, I was so excited to see this building.

  • I was picturing the next Prime Minister or Nobel Laureate coming out of it.

  • We had so many things to donate: pens, pencils, books, teachers,

  • and I arrived, and I realised something I already should have known:

  • schools don't teach kids, people do.

  • We were planting papayas.

  • A Cambodian friend came up to me later and said,

  • "You know, you foreigners,

  • you really like to put your name on buildings, don't you?"

  • And he was right. (Laughter)

  • Here's an empty building with my name on it

  • next to an empty health center with some Belgian guy's name on it.

  • You know in that movie "Field of Dreams"? They got it wrong.

  • If you build it, they will not necessarily come.

  • I spent the next six years living in Cambodia,

  • trying to figure out how to put an investment of a school building to use

  • and building a team to make that possible.

  • I thought it would take a few days, and a nice building,

  • and it's taken a lot more than six years;

  • yet, I'd volunteered all over the world before that

  • and every time I went home thinking, "Job well done."

  • Cambodia was the first time that I stuck around long enough

  • to peek behind the curtain after the few days or few months

  • when a volunteer drops in, and I didn't like what I saw.

  • I realised that a lot of the things that I had been doing,

  • that I had been encouraged to do in past volunteer trips

  • could sometimes cause more harm than good.

  • I realised that giving things away like shoes or water filters

  • could sometimes destroy local markets,

  • and that buying things from kids who are selling stuff on the street

  • could sometimes keep them there.

  • I watched the orphanage tourism sector grow.

  • Now orphanage tourism is

  • one of the most popular among volunteer travelers,

  • and it lets you and I, and anyone off the street,

  • walk in, and play with vulnerable kids, and have those same kids do dance shows

  • night after night, for visiting travelers.

  • Actually, UNICEF released a report last year

  • that three out of four Cambodian "orphans" in orphanages

  • have one or both living parents.

  • The volunteer tourism market is part of a system

  • that is fueling this separation of kids and their parents,

  • and that's not something that I signed up for.

  • I'm sure most of you who've volunteered abroad as well

  • don't want to be a part of that either,

  • and we don't want to be setting our kids up

  • for that same experience that I had,

  • so what we need to teach our kids

  • is the biggest lesson that I learned in six years in Cambodia is that:

  • we have to learn before we can help.

  • We have to learn before we can help, or else we're causing more harm than good.

  • I get e-mails from teachers all the time that say,

  • "We'd like our students to have a volunteer experience for 1 or 2 days,

  • not on a project that's already started,

  • we want them to have it from start to finish

  • so they can get a sense of accomplishment."

  • What are we teaching our kids?

  • We have to learn before we can help, but we already know this.

  • When we send young people abroad to intern in a law firm,

  • we tell them they'll do menial tasks file papers, sit, listen, and learn,

  • they don't expect to be lead prosecutor in a court case the next week,

  • and we know they'd mess up if they tried, right?

  • So we have this double standard when we send them abroad to volunteer,

  • we're making it seem like development work is easy,

  • and anybody can just come do it.

  • Even the word's that we're using are setting our youths up to be superior,

  • we're "volunteering" or we're doing "service learning",

  • as we say in North America.

  • If you're there to serve someone that you're superior to,

  • it's sure hard to understand

  • that you should be learning from those same people.

  • We're fueling a system of sympathy tourism.

  • Sympathy, by definition, means pitying someone else.

  • We don't need to be teaching our kids sympathy but empathy.

  • We need to teach our kids empathy

  • because empathy requires an understanding of others,

  • and if you understand others, you have to learn first.

  • It means entering the world saying,

  • "I'm here to learn from you," not, "I'm here to teach you."

  • It means being humble.

  • We need to stop sympathy volunteering,

  • and start empathy learning,

  • and we can even use the same vocabulary if you like.

  • How about we take "service learning" and we flip it around?

  • If we take a learning service approach, what we're telling our youth is go abroad,

  • and learn how to serve in the future.

  • We're saying go abroad and learn, and get yourself the tools that you need

  • to begin to understand the complexity of development work.

  • Get angry, get interested, and then go home,

  • and you have 355 other days of the year, or the rest your life,

  • to improve how you give, improve how you travel,

  • and improve how you live.

  • I think we're losing kids from this long-term fight

  • that we need to solve our world's problems in three ways.

  • First, some people go abroad and they get completely overwhelmed

  • when they enter a place that's very different than their own.

  • And if they don't have someone there

  • to help them digest that experience, I know I did.

  • When I went to India when I was 20,

  • I thought leprosy was made up in religious texts,

  • and I swore I would never go back.

  • We're losing some people

  • because they go abroad, and they get a chance to be a hero,

  • but they never engage with the complexity of aid.

  • So they go home with pictures, and they show they've done their part.

  • We're fueling a guilt offsetting programme.

  • You can live however you like all year, as long as every now and then,

  • you go volunteer in an orphanage and offset the rest.

  • But we're never engaging with sustainable solutions to our world's biggest problems.

  • And sometimes, we lose people because they go abroad, they volunteer,

  • and they stick around a little bit longer, and they say,

  • "Wait, you told me this was easy, but this is kind of hard and I might have messed up

  • and you let me fundraise for my flights, and all these people are behind me,

  • and I didn't succeed," and they give up.

  • So if we want to keep these people in the system,

  • and have them solve our problems in the future,

  • we need to offer learning first.

  • So that organization that I founded in Cambodia

  • stopped offering volunteer trips,

  • and we started offering development education tours.

  • We're not offering simple answers anymore.

  • Instead, students usually leave with a lot more questions

  • than they started with, but that's the point.

  • Development is complex,

  • so we need to arm our youth with a context for that complexity.

  • What does that look like?

  • Debates and discussions, reading articles at night,

  • questions and answers sessions with development professionals.

  • A chance to exchange ideas with local youths.

  • There's tons of educational travel options out there for young people.

  • But we need to start rewarding that, and encouraging that,

  • just as much if not more than we do volunteer travel.

  • We give volunteer time-off and extra pats on the back

  • to the people who go volunteer,

  • we need to do the same or more for those who are going to learn.

  • Educational travel has so much potential, for you and I, for everyone.

  • Imagine an educational hotel chain where professors and residents

  • are curating learning content for travelers who come through,

  • we can create that.

  • It's up to you and I to create that,

  • and it's up to us to demand what's already there,

  • so if you're a parent and you're listening to this talk,

  • tell your child, you're not measuring how many wells they build,

  • or how orphanages they visit on their first trip abroad.

  • Tell them you want them to tell you everything they learned.

  • So you can set them up to be prepared

  • for the responsibilities that come with their global citizenship.

  • And if you're someone who's about to go abroad

  • to a country or culture that's different than your own,

  • choose a learning approach

  • so you don't have to make the same mistakes that I did.

  • And the next time a teacher e-mails me

  • to design a feelgood spectacle for their students,

  • I'm going to e-mail them back, send them this talk, and tell them

  • to define success for their students as learning first before serving,

  • so that we can set them up to succeed in the long-term.

  • They will do the world-improving later,

  • if we give them the right tools and we plant the right seeds,

  • and then we'll start getting mangoes.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

"What's wrong with volunteer travel?", you ask;

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

A2 US volunteer cambodia cambodian tourism travel learning

【TEDx】What's wrong with volunteer travel?: Daniela Papi at TEDxOxbridge

  • 1610 123
    Sh, Gang (Aaron) posted on 2016/08/11
Video vocabulary