Humans are inherently selfish. The only reason students volunteer is to have something nice to look at on their résumés in the hopes that future employers will think that they are well-rounded individuals and should be hired. That statement alone is enough to trigger emotions of outrage, I understand. But allow me a few minutes out of your day to explain to you that volunteering with such groups as the Acadia Global Brigades is an absolute farce. It provides doe-eyed naïve students that opportunity to take a profile picture to shape an altruistic image of themselves while leaving those in need ever-searching for actual solutions.
Let me pose to you a question: if you’re sick and in need of some life-saving injection, do you want a student administering that shot for you? Do you want a student giving you advice about your nutrition? Do you want a student building your homes? The answer is no. You want an actual doctor giving you medical attention. You want fully-trained nutritionists giving you advice. You want actual labour-skilled workers building your home. By participating with the Acadia Global Brigades or similar voluntourist groups, you are effectively treating the people seeking assistance as guinea pigs for your own “training.” These are students, unlicensed and not yet professionally capable to give assistance. In fact, if a student remained here in Canada to conduct the same actions, they would be charged with fraud. The fact that the Brigades takes place in Honduras makes everything okay though. It’s far away and so are the consequences. Who are you to play doctor with actual human lives?
The email I received advertising the Brigades asked me if I wanted to “get involved during [my] university experience.” Key word: experience. The Brigades is being pitched to me, to students, as an experience. Experience like going on a vacation, experience like going to a concert. Don’t try to pitch it to me that I’m going to be single-handedly responsible for improving “quality of life, resolve global health and economic disparities and work collaboratively with community members to work towards an equal world all while respecting local culture.” If you wanted to respect local culture, you should not be involved in perpetuating Western forms of “development.” It was the West who defined what it meant to be in poverty. It was the West who pursued to change the standards of other countries to match their own interests. Let the people of Honduras find there own ground-up solutions. Who are you to come in and dictate what the people need?
Do you ever think about the impact that you’re leaving behind when the voluntour is all said and done? You take a few pictures with local community members, with the ever-smiling kids. If you get a picture with a foreign child who’s all laughs and carefree, that earns you over one hundred likes of Facebook. Good for you. Push that social media agenda and half-assed attempt to tugging at people’s heart strings. You want to look like a good person, so go on the voluntour. Go ahead and build bonds with those kids. Play with them, sing with them, show them that you care. And when every thing is all said and done, you can go ahead and abandon them. Abandon them and go home to Canada, looking upon lovely pictures to remember them by. Leave them to their shoddily built houses made by 18 to 22-year olds with no building experience.
So, no. I don’t want to partake in this supposedly “amazing experience.” I don’t want to “find that out on [my] own.” I am aware of my actions, domestically and internationally. If you’ve thought about joining the Acadia Global Brigades, I suggest you read the book Damned Nations by Samantha Nutt, MD. Educate yourself before you unwittingly place somebody else at more risk then they already were. It would suck to find out that the house you built for a Honduran family came crashing down on them because it was poorly constructed. It would suck to be on the receiving end of a needle, being prodded like cattle. It would suck to make friends with a foreigner only for them to leave and not give so much as a second thought to how you were doing. Repairing schools and homes may make you feel great, but it may do more harm than good. Having good intentions doesn’t always lead to a good outcome.
The Acadia Global Brigades is a farce. Leave it to the professionals.