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10 Inconvenient Truths About Voluntourism

10 Inconvenient Truths About Voluntourism

Are you attracted by the idea of helping desperate people in Haiti or working with an orphanage in Nepal? The concept of volunteer tourism or voluntourism is a noble and worthy one. But when I started to investigate, I realized that there are some uncomfortable truths that have to be faced before volunteering.

I was shocked to realize what big business this has become. There are well over one and a half million tourists (mostly college students and retirees) who offer their services worldwide every year which is worth about $2 billion. These are the figures quoted in a book Volunteer Tourism- A Global Analysis which provides a fascinating insight into what is often a very murky business, unfortunately.

1. Do you know anything about the volunteer organization?

There are excellent bodies doing Trojan work out there. But there are also some very shady operators who are exploiting, not only the well meaning tourists but the poor people, children and the homeless in the developing world. Here are a few examples:

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  • Costs are high – staff and resources have to be found. Is this the best use of the time and money spent?
  • Many of the 800 orphanages in Nepal, for example, are bogus institutions and unregulated.
  • Unscrupulous operators trick poor people into sending their children to be educated in one of these institutions. In reality, they are neither educated nor fed properly.
  • One Unicef report found that 85% of the children in these so called orphanages in Nepal had at least one living parent.

2. Why not send money instead?

One volunteer who worked in post earthquake Haiti, helping to rebuild homes, found that the actual cost was almost $1,000 per volunteer. Half of that money was spent on building materials and hiring local construction workers. The other half was spent on feeding and housing the volunteers. This volunteer was convinced that sending all the money would have been much more helpful in the long run.

3. Children are abandoned

The volunteers are encouraged, when working in the orphanages, to bond with the children to strengthen the emotional attachment. This, in my view, is a particularly useless and cruel approach. The volunteers will abandon the vulnerable and needy children, once they leave. Many children suffer the trauma of another separation as they are abandoned yet again!

4. Employment could be given to local people

Many volunteers turn up to roll up their sleeves for tough manual or skilled work. There are local, unemployed people who could easily do the work and be paid a fair wage. This would really help to make a difference. The volunteers arrive, work like slaves and leave without making any impact at all on the local economy. In many ways, they have made a bad situation worse!

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5. Are you encouraging a new type of colonialism?

Throughout Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, many countries are still struggling to shake off the shackles of colonialism which have left many unwelcome legacies. Volunteer tourism can interfere with this process of independent and positive growth. This should include long term strategies and help people develop new skills to face local economic challenges. The fact that volunteers are trying to feel good by working in the field is often a hindrance. Much better to do some serious fundraising at home.

6. Are your skills a match for the job?

Most student volunteers know nothing about building or child-rearing. In many cases, senior citizens or retirees are better placed here as they have considerable experience in various jobs and will have a better skills match.  If you are considering voluntourism, think about the project and what skills are required. What are your language skills, social skills, parenting experience, manual skills, and so on? Then, honestly reflect on whether you would be really useful or not

 7. Volunteers come first

“It’s done for the experience of the volunteer. It’s all about the volunteer, with the pretense of helping someone, and I don’t buy it.”- Roger O’Halloran, director of PALMS International.

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Many volunteers are accepted and their needs seem to come first. Lots of expense, time and effort are put into making their experience a memorable and self fulfilling one. They are offered a unique experience which their cosseted upbringing has never allowed. The actual recipients of the aid come a very poor second.

8. Who is really benefiting?

Did you know that many of the ‘fake’ orphans I mentioned above are often cast out on the streets, once the volunteer tourist project ends? They will be forced to beg and be forced into prostitution. This is the time to think about the middlemen and how these organizations are run. Who is really gaining? Very often, the middlemen, travel agencies, and so called institutions are gaining a lot of ready cash.

9. Are you willing to be complicit in child trafficking?

This is the most serious issue of all. Many volunteers are unwittingly entering into the murky world where children are exploited, abused and trafficked. They would be shocked to find out what is really going on.

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10. 10 things to check out before volunteering

  1. Check out the organization you hope to work with. Ask a lot of questions, especially about employing locals, skills sets and costs. You need to know if they are reputable and reliable.
  2. Visit their website and their Facebook page. This is a good way of connecting with past volunteers and learning from them.
  3. Learn about the country you hope to visit. Study the history, culture and economic situation.
  4. Examine honestly your motives and ethics in volunteering. If you are looking for photo-ops, it may be best to consider something else.
  5. If the organization is a religious one, are you comfortable with any preaching or evangelism to be done?
  6. Ask about support and training you will receive if you do decide to go.
  7. Find out about their finances and their involvement with local NGOs. You may want to check out what their goals, ethics and values are.
  8. Be very clear on what the project hopes to achieve and how it will help local initiatives/employment after you leave.
  9. If you decide not to go, consider other ways you can help the organization if you feel it is a worthy one. Do you have IT skills where you could build a website for them?
  10. Consider a financial donation, if you feel that your skills set and physique are not up to it. Check out how they manage their funds, if you can.

Voluntourism is great, if it is carried out responsibly with local people’s needs in mind. If not, it may well be a scam that should be avoided at all costs.

Featured photo credit: Group 20 -015/Visions Service Adventures via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on July 2, 2020

Simple Hacks on How to Relieve Neck Pain Fast (and Naturally)

Simple Hacks on How to Relieve Neck Pain Fast (and Naturally)

There is very little in life as annoying or distracting as neck pain. Most people find that neck pain is temporary. What can you do if your neck pain seems chronic or if it comes and goes with no obvious source?

Whether you have simply slept on your neck wrong or you are working late, hunched over a keyboard half the night, neck pain is, well, a pain in the neck!

What most people are unaware of is that there are little known hacks that can help you find relief from neck pain fast and naturally. This means no pills or expensive exercise equipment to buy.

How can you get relief from neck pain?

There are several easy steps to follow to find the perfect hack for solving your neck pain fast and easy.

How Did I End Up With This Pain in the Neck?

Neck pain often has an I-was-looking-right-at-it source that we don’t recognize at first glance. Once you identify the source of the pain, you can take the best corrective measure, or several measures if need be!

Ask yourself these questions to find a possible source:

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  • Do you spend much of the day sitting (desk job, typing, etc.)?
  • How old are your mattress and pillow?
  • How much exercise do you work into an average day?
  • How do you manage stress?
  • Have you been injured or in an accident (no matter how small) lately?

Perhaps one last question to ask yourself might be, “Is my pain a regular occurrence, or is my neck pain something that has just cropped up?

Once you know the answers to these questions, you can start searching for answers.

Remedies for Neck Pain

Once you know the source, try tapping into one (or several) of these solutions to start healing your neck pain now.

1. Everyday Activities

One of the important factors with neck pain will be your everyday activities. Other than an injury or accident, one of the largest factors for neck pain includes working overtime in an office and the stress that work entails[1].

Due to the coronavirus, many people find themselves working from home, in kitchens, basements, using a barstool, and/or other equipment that was not designed for humans to spend hours on end, typing and looking at a computer screen.

If you find that your neck pain has occurred during the past few months due to a job change, or if you suddenly began working from home, your issue may be due to ergonomics. Invest in an adjustable office chair to help make your workspace more neck-friendly.

2. Age of Mattress and Pillow

The age of your mattress and pillow should also be considered. Pillows, on average, should be changed every 3 years, and a mattress every 7-10 years. No matter how good or comfortable you think these items are, the truth is that they are hurting your neck and back with a lack of support.

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A good mattress is well worth the investment, and pillows are always on sale, as well as wallet-friendly. If you haven’t tried them, a water-filled pillow can be comfortable for many people.

3. Exercise/Movement/Stretching

It’s that old exercise question that no one wants to hear. This time around, it has been difficult for many people to get in good exercise since they have been housebound due to the quarantine. There are plenty of ways to get in some good, old-fashioned exercise.

Stretching exercises are even more important than before since many people do not get enough movement while sitting at home. There are hundreds of at-home exercise, dance, and yoga videos that require little to no equipment, so even if you’re a beginner, give it a go.

4. Stress and Stress Management

Stress is a hidden danger that robs more people of health than even most doctors realize. While everyone has stress, not everyone recognizes it, nor do they have a means of managing it. Exercise is one of the best ways to release stress, with meditation and yoga being the best ways to manage and relieve stress. All of these will remove tightness in the muscles and relieve neck pain.

5. Accident or Injury

If you have been involved in an accident or injured yourself lately (falling down, or having something fall on you, for example) and your neck pain began after this incident, you should speak with your doctor about this as soon as possible.

6. On-Going Problem or Sudden Occurrence

Finally, if your neck pain is something that has occurred recently, it could simply be that you slept on it wrong or turned your neck too hard. That will make this a very temporary condition. You can try some easy stretches for pain relief .

An on-going problem, however, might respond better to some other alternative methods, including:

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  • Slowly moving and stretching your neck. Do not move too quickly or too far. Roll your head from side to side, shoulder to shoulder, to the front and to the back.
  • Ice packs work well for some people, while heat works best for others.
  • Be aware of how you use your cell phone or tablet. If you keep your neck bent downward for too long to look at it, you can develop an annoying pain called text-neck or tech-neck. Take breaks and look up to stretch those neck muscles.
  • Long hours driving can also be hard on the neck. Look from side to side as far as you can, as well as up and down to prevent a stiff neck.

 

Still Have Tight Neck Muscles? 3 Tips for Finding Relief

When tight neck muscles are not responding to the typical heat, ice, or massage treatments, you might want to give the following a try:

1. Gua Sha

This is an ancient Chinese practice that might seem a bit odd, but it works for many people. In this practice, a trained individual uses a spoon or other object and makes short strokes down the neck. It is believed that poor blood circulation causes it to become stagnant, if you will, and blocks the positive energy needed for life, called qi.

Fresh blood will indeed allow oxygen and nutrients to feed the tissues in a given area, and one study found that gua sha worked where traditional methods, such as heat therapy, did not[2].

2. Swimming

You probably know that swimming is a terrific low-impact exercise that works wonders for those with back and knee pain, but did you know that it also works well for neck pain and tight muscles? It helps if the water is tepid and not cold, but even just floating on your back can offer tremendous relief since most of the body weight is suspended by the buoyancy of water.

3. Chiropractic Massage

Not your typical day spa massage, chiropractic massage is performed under the guidance of a chiropractor. A trained massage therapist will still do the massage, but this time, the chiropractor will have discussed your neck pain and any problems you might be having with them. Many people have found real relief from neck pain through chiropractic massage.

The Best Treatment for Neck Pain

When you need to find relief from neck pain and nothing you have tried previously seems to give you more than a few minutes of relief, spending some time with a chiropractor often times can fix this issue, and it doesn’t often return if you follow a healthy lifestyle.

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I’m certain that many of you are thinking about those awful videos with those loud cracking noises you’ve seen on social media, or you are recalling a news story which might have suggested that allowing a chiropractor anywhere near your neck might be a health hazard[3]. Nothing could be further from the truth.

You should try the other suggestions in this article before you head off to the chiropractor, but when all else fails, don’t let neck pain nag you day in and day out. Take steps to make an appointment, and you will be surprised at the results.

What Can a Chiropractor Do for Neck Pain?

Many people mistakenly believe that the only technique a chiropractor will use is a neck adjustment. Chiropractors are trained in a variety of methods that are designed to help you find the pain relief you are seeking.

A few of the methods a chiropractor might use include:

  • Cervical Manual Traction
  • Flexion-Distraction
  • Cervical Mobilization
  • Ultrasound
  • Cervical Drop Technique
  • Trigger Point Therapy

There are many more options, but your chiropractor should explain to you which techniques s/he intends to use and why[4]

The Bottom Line

If neck pain wreaks havoc in your life regularly, the best way to stop it is to identify the source and attack it from that angle.

Getting plenty of exercises, having a proper posture, and buying an office chair that provides plenty of support, as well as a regular stretching program, will keep your neck strong and flexible for many years to come.

More Tips on Healing Neck Pain

Featured photo credit: Christopher Campbell via unsplash.com

Reference

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