By Natalie Rich///Senior Staff Writer
Voluntourism, perhaps a loaded and murky term, is one that Lewis & Clark’s chapter of buildOn accepts and works with. Monica Cropsey ’17 and Allie Collins ’17, co-presidents of buildOn, explain what it means.
“Voluntourism has gained a lot of popularity specifically with college students because it’s seen as a resume-booster, and you also get to travel while doing something that you think is good for the community, but it’s become really problematic specifically with things like volunteering with orphanages … it’s kind of like a band-aid solution,and it doesn’t address the issue of poverty, which is why most of the children are at the orphanages, and so that’s a big issue with voluntourism is that it doesn’t address the actual issue at play,” Cropsey said.
BuildOn is a nonprofit organization that works to eliminate cycles of illiteracy and poverty through service and education. Collins added that the entire basis of the buildOn is directed at what the community wants. A community has to reach out to buildOn and request a job.
“And if we have the opportunity to go there, and do a cultural exchange, then the community chooses what activities they want to do with us and what things they want to show us. Everything is encouraged by the community,” said Collins.
The LC chapter focuses a lot on educational awareness.
“We really want to start this year going into issues that have to do more with education and global poverty and things like voluntourism and spreading awareness of these issues on our campus and community,” said Collins.
Part of buildOn’s focus is working with the idea of being an ethical volunteer, and the added work that comes with that.
“I think one of the reasons voluntourism is so controversial is because a lot of people don’t know what it’s like to be an ethical volunteer before they sign up for these trips. A lot of it has to do with, of you’re choosing to go on a voluntourism trip, really researching what organization you’re going with, thinking about what your effect in the country you’re going to is going to be,” said Cropsey.
“And also the privilege you have, recognizing that, and … also going in with an understanding that you’re learning from each other. If you’re going into a community … you’re learning from them and they’re also learning things from you … I think that’s an important thing to understand and to always go in with an open attitude,” Collins added.
One of buildOn’s core maxims is, “We’re not building a school for a community, we’re building a school with a community,” and Cropsey emphasized the importance of avoiding an attitude of “saving people,” or “fixing their problems.”
“It’s more about empowering people with the tools to solve their own problems,” Cropsey said.
Collins and Cropsey both got involved with buildOn in their freshman year, through the Piofair. They rose quickly through the group, and now serve as co-presidents.
Collins laid out upcoming events and overall plans for buildOn this year, which include a silent auction on Oct.12.
“Come to our meetings. Every Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. in Thayer. We have snacks,” Collins added.
“Mostly what we want to work on this year is establishing more of a presence on campus and talking more about the issues that are important to us. I think that most people kind of know we exist, they know that we sell grilled cheese.” (Yes, they’re the grilled cheese people.)
“Also creating a discourse on campus … everyone’s very critical of voluntourism, which I think is totally justifiable, but also like personally I think buildOn does a really good job with what they do, and I think it’s so important to create a discussion about it, and with discussion with other people, you can grow not only as an individual but as an organization, or at least for us as a chapter,” Cropsey added.