The Beet

The Beet: A Guide to Voluntourism

The Beet knows what you’re thinking. You just checked Instagram, and you saw that your white, wealthy, private-school friend, whose friends are exclusively fellow whites, has posted a picture–or maybe several–with a young black or Latino child. Your friend–let’s call him Chad–is getting hundreds of likes and dozens of adoring comments. “So cute!” writes one of Chad’s classmates; “Aw!!” cries another; “My favorite place in the world” says yet another, who herself has posted similar photos a few times. You’re a little confused, and you’re fuming with jealousy.

You’re wondering: Where is Chad? Who is this little child? Why is my very-wealthy, very-white friend who never dares to leave his socioeconomic neighborhood posing next to a person-of-color who–gasp!–also appears to be poor? How do I get this kind of attention on social media? Not to worry. I have answers.

Chad is on a program where, for two weeks (and not a second longer!), he travels to a developing nation to volunteer with underprivileged children for no more than a total of 10 hours; stays pretty comfortably in a ‘camp’; takes, literally, hundreds of photographs; and gets to, as he put it in his caption, “immerse myself in the culture of another country.”

Sounds pretty great, huh? Well, lucky for you, all you need to do is follow these simple steps, and you’ll be getting loads of Instagram attention and resume-buffing material in no time!

1) Pick a destination for your trip. You’re going to want to pick a country that is notable for its poverty. This way, when you tell people where you went, they will instantly understand that you’re an amazing person who did not go on vacation, but sacrificed comfort for the good of others. I would suggest Haiti or perhaps the DR.

2) Preparation. Since you will be there for two weeks, you should probably buy at least six full Indiana Jones-esque outfits. I mean, it’s like the freaking jungle there! You only get what you pay for in this world, so I recommend buying the absolute highest quality clothing–Lululemon, North Face, Patagonia, and the like. Do not worry about spending upwards of $1000 in this category; you’ll make up for these expenses when you’re doing loads of charity work! You will also want to be armed with several cameras, because what’s all this goodwill for if you don’t get pictures of yourself hugging some poor Third World kid? A GoPro, your iPhone camera, and (my preference) a Nikon D810 should do the trick.

3) Advertise, advertise, advertise! This is not so much a step in the process as something you should always have in mind. The trip is pointless if people do not know you went and did a minimal amount of charity work while there. Tell people, post lots of pictures, put it on resumes, and post some more pictures–seriously, when you start to think maybe you’ve posted too much on the trip, post again. In your captions, be sure to suggest emotional intimacy with the native children you’re meeting, even though your interaction with them is essentially the same as yours with a puppy you pass on the street–cute, separated by a severe language barrier, and forgotten pretty quickly.

4) Do the trip. You’re on the trip. Time to have a blast. You might be thinking, Wait, aren’t I here to do charity work? Shouldn’t this, by definition, be a laborious and earnest endeavor? No! That’s the great thing about this trip–vacation under a different name. Sure, there will be some boring hours where you have to help paint a schoolhouse or something, but that always makes for a great photo op!

5) Return safely. While these trips can be a fun and enlightening two weeks, it is important that you don’t let them fundamentally change the way you think about the world. Once you come home, continue to interact only with white people and disdain poor people, and be sure to pick back up the same environmentally wasteful habits you had before the trip.

A trip like this is a great opportunity for a young, wealthy, white teen like yourself to see the world. You’ll get the chance to post some great pictures; have some excellent evidence to reassure yourself that you’re not, even on a subconscious level, racist; and, best of all, take an awesome, stress-free vacation!