That wonderful time of year when everybody’s Instagram feed is updated every five seconds with pictures of balmy tropical beaches, watermelon Eegees, beaming friends posing in front of sunsets, and, in a new trend, privileged American teenagers joyfully smiling alongside small underprivileged children. The captions tend to follow a certain trend: “They taught me more than they’ll ever know,” or “Thank you for everything,” or “My life will never be the same.”
As a recent headline in the satirical periodical The Onion joked, “6-Day Visit To Rural African Village Completely Changes Woman’s Facebook Profile Picture.”
The pictures are a result of a recent phenomena emerging among high school student summer activities: voluntourism. As college counselors urge students to make use of their summers and universities place increasing emphasis on the value of community service work in their applications, voluntourism provides the perfect solution for combining fun and work, as literally evidenced in its portmanteau of volunteer and tourism.
Organizations offering voluntourism programs usually work to build schools, teach English, clean up areas, or provide other essential services in third-world countries. Popular destinations might include India, Ghana, Cambodia, Kenya, Peru, Nicaragua. Most programs maintain a balance between service-based work and sight-seeing, swimming, trying local cuisine, or any other extra recreational activities. The experiences as a whole are, of course, in no way free and typically are similar in price to academic summer programs held at colleges.
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