In recent years much criticism has been directed at the phenomenon of voluntourism whereby individuals mix foreign holidays with voluntary work for NGOs.
The concern is that projects can become more about the volunteers and their experience than about meeting community needs. Volunteers can displace locals from work, and prevent local skills development, which in turn prevents projects leaving sustainable legacies, without locals possessing the expertise to maintain them when volunteers go.
In particular, volunteerism in orphanages has been harshly criticised. There is consensus amongst experts (such as the Better Care Network, UNICEF and Save the Children) that the orphanage model of child care for vulnerable children, can actually cause more harm than good, with institutionalisation undermining the development of social skills, and failing to prepare children for adulthood. Children in orphanages lack the individual attention and miss out on invaluable experiences that are part and parcel of living with a family. By coming and going, as batches of tour groups, volunteers potentially exacerbate issues with feelings of abandonment.
The Nasio Trust is intentionally set up in a way that avoids these issues. We work in partnership with the communities of Mumias and Musanda, to ensure our projects meet their needs and are sustainable. As an organisation focussed on care for vulnerable children, we recognise the important role families play in the upbringing of the child, and so aim to place orphans within loving families, and provide support to keep vulnerable families together. Support for guardian families is provided in the form of food, education and healthcare, as well as assistance in developing income-generating projects. We match volunteers’ skills in line with these project needs, to ensure that they are able to make a meaningful contribution, first and foremost serving the community.
Compiled from content kindly provided by Oxford University interns: