Does volontourism do more harm than good?

Nowadays, one of the biggest and fastest growing sectors in travel is voluntourism, which combines volunteer work and travelling in developing countries. There has been a lot of speculation over whether or not voluntourists actually make a difference in the short time they spend in these communities, and this debate is rich with criticism and cynics who urge affluent people to stay home and send money instead. However, while volunteers may not be as skilled as constructors or teachers, there is still a lot of good that can come from this effect.
When a young person goes to a developing country and spends time, however brief it may be, in the local communities they are deeply impacted by that experience. The trip could open their eyes to how severe poverty and other problems are, and it could heavily influence their life and those surrounding them. The young person could become more actively involved in the fight for equality, and they can also come back better informed and more passionate about helping make the world a better place. Discouraging people from stepping outside of their comfort zone and trying to expand their horizons is not only condescending, it is hindering the efforts to help spread awareness of the problems developing countries are facing. Apathy towards these issues is one of the biggest reasons that we are still struggling with poverty and other problems.
The people against voluntourism also say that the volunteers are just using the organizations for reassurance of their altruism and goodness. However, the overwhelming majority that sets out to volunteer are kind-hearted, humble people who want to do more than just write a check. They do not go on these trips to feel superior, they go because they want to help make a difference and not spend their entire summer tanning by the pool. They will stay in the same homes, eat the same food, and do the same things as the locals, and they do not view themselves as better than the locals.
While of course it would be nice if the volunteers could stay for extended periods of time in order for them to be able to make a deeper, longer-lasting impact that is unfortunately not always an option. In order to maximize the benefits of voluntourism, people who are interested in becoming a voluntourist should research the organization they wish to go with to ensure that they have the community’s best interests at heart. They should be very transparent about where all of the money they receive goes, and they should be able to tell you their background and the impact they have had in the past.
Almost everything will have its pros and cons, and voluntourism should not be stopped for the few drawbacks it has. There are many other problems that require more immediate attention. Going to help a community become more developed or to recover after a natural disaster should not be something that people should feel ashamed or stop doing. It is still doing more good than just lounging around on the beach. As long as people ensure that the organization they are travelling with is really focused on making a positive impact, voluntourism benefits both the locals and the voluntourists, and it should be viewed in a positive way.