Why should I fund your vacation?
By Aidan Mouellic, Staff Writer
I enjoy giving money to worthwhile causes. If someone is poor and needs money for a plane ticket to visit a dying relative, they deserve some charity. But if someone wants to travel the world to create an awesome Instagram feed, then they don’t need charity—they need a job.
It used to be that a lot of students would come to my house and ask for donations to fund trips to Africa to build schools. This hasn’t happened in a while, but while it did, it bothered me. Children in Africa do need schools, but they don’t need wealthy westerners to build them. The students asking for my money are masking their fun African vacations behind the facade of “volun-tourism.” These people annoy the heck out of me; not because they insist on posting pictures of themselves with cute African children on Facebook, but because they often think that these trips to Third World nations aren’t entirely self-serving.
Helping others is crucial to a successful society, but our motives are not always pure. If the youth who came to my house asking for my money really wanted to help cute African children, they wouldn’t have spent $5,000 per person to go to Mozambique to build simple structures for a couple weeks; they could put that money to better use in the Third World country. Or, they could have used their time, money, and efforts on the numerous worthy causes in their own backyards.
What happened to “Think globally, act locally?” Are we not exploiting the poor in Third World nations by turning our volunteers’ actions in our favour? It presents a bit of a moral dilemma. Helping others who are disadvantaged is good, but is helping them merely a means to help ourselves?
Many college programs and high schools have mandatory volunteer-hour requirements, and many employers require potential job candidates to have volunteer experience. By making volunteer work mandatory, we’re making the poor and destitute people a means for us to accumulate necessary experience. Merely helping others out of the goodness of our hearts is a fading occurrence. Volunteerism has morphed into “volun-tourism” which has then turned into a way to pad your resumé and feel warm and fuzzy inside.
The people no longer come to my door asking me to fund their African-school-building safaris. They have found a way to reach a wider audience on the Internet with the use of crowdfunding websites. With sites such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, individuals can make pitches online, with the public hopefully donating to their causes. At first, small-time entrepreneurs hoping to make their inventions come to light or musicians needing funds to record an album used these sites. But things have progressed to the point where people are once again disguising their vacations as humanitarian endeavours in hopes of garnering donations.
Some folks are crafty at hiding the fact that they can’t afford their road trip and want some money, while others are more upfront. There have been many cases of brides going to Kickstarter to “panhandle” for their wedding costs—which is sad, but at least they aren’t claiming their wedding dresses will change the world.
I often donate to worthy causes, and IndieGoGo and Kickstarter have made it easier for me to do so. But it has also made it easier for people with self-serving intentions to take money from people who are perhaps dumb enough to part with it. I don’t want volunteers, crowdfunders, or philanthropists with deep pockets to go away; I just hope that all parties will keep it real.