Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Voluntourism/Vaniteerism at the runaway teen shelter

For my thoughts on voluntourism (which I prefer to call "vaniteerism"), click here.

I dropped off some Cheerios, milk, brownie mix, deodorant, etc at the shelter last night, and it was the funniest visit yet. First, there was a woman near the cabinet where I was offloading toiletries unpacking a very professional-looking video camera. I overheard that she's "documenting" two of the kids at the shelter. Then I went to the back to unload the food, and there were about a dozen awkward white kids clustered in the kitchen. One of the boys who's always there when we are (and has stated his preference for triple-bladed razors) said they were going to be there all week from Wisconsin and "I have to say, they make me very uncomfortable". Yeah, me too. You could tell they were there to "do good" during their Spring Break, but clearly the shelter kids were not crazy about the situation, and were almost... relieved? ... to see quiet, regular ol' me. Two of them leapt upon the deodorant, which surprised me - between us, Dani & I have donated 25 full-size Sure, Speedstick, Right Guard and Secret in the past two weeks. When that wishlist a few weeks back said they were completely out, they weren't exaggerating!

Anyway, I'm not sure what these college kids on Spring Break are hoping to achieve, especially since there are so many of them that the shelter kids who enjoy cooking aren't "needed". At least when it's just a couple of us, it's more like we're sharing their territory rather than usurping it. I wonder how much the two groups interact...the shelter kids were way more skilled at hiding their discomfort.

I heard the shelter manager speak for the first time - to the camera woman. Apparently while donations are slacking off at the moment, there is a rise in volunteer interest. Just goes to show that in this economy, we all have more time than money, duh. I like combining the two, the way i have been (thanks to Dani's cooking-for-the-masses skills!).

1 comment:

Saver Queen said...

Interesting post - I wrote about volunteerism last night as well.

Kind of annoying, this half-assed approach, isn't it? If they don't want to be there, or are only interested in doing certain kinds of jobs, they shouldn't bother. Episodic work that is project-specific, meaningful and useful is one thing... hanging around not doing anything because their most favourite job isn't available is another thing all together.