Posts Tagged ‘short term voluntering’


Volunteering abroad to build schools or dig wells might make people feel good about themselves – but it can be detrimental to those who are supposed to be helped.

I can’t remember how, but I came across this article by Daniela Papi on the BBC News Magazine 1 May 2013 entitled Is gap year a bad thing? It has prompted me to blog on short term mission again, but first…

Here are some of the things she writes…

I feel that the growing practice of sending young people abroad to volunteer is often not only failing the communities they are meant to be serving, but also setting these travellers, and by extension our whole society, up for failure in the long run.

We must stop volunteering abroad from becoming about us fulfilling our dreams of being heroes. The travellers are not just missing out on learning the lessons that lead to more sustainable changes in themselves and in the world, but they are also often negatively impacting the people they are meant to be “serving”.

Volunteering to take care of orphans might not sound too bad at first – at least I didn’t think so on my initial orphanage visits. Imagine if an orphanage near your home had a rotating door of volunteers coming to play with these children who have already been deemed vulnerable.

People often say, “doing something is better than doing nothing”. But it isn’t. Not when that something is often wasteful at best, and at worst causing a lot of harm.

Daniela is highlighting the same issues that Christian mission short termism continues to debate. It’s not that it is bad or wrong or always a disaster… but it is a continuous challenge to assess the needs of the people we claim to serve, not the self-satisfaction of Gappers, short termers with misinformed intentions and unrealistic expectations.

In short, the short term trip that you are planning to advertise or to go on… what will it achieve in the context of God’s mission to the people he created?

woman in tentIn the meantime, here’s a Wycliffe UK suggestion for a trip that probably won’t do anyone any harm, but might help you think about your future. Two Week Stint in France this coming summer

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