Frequently Asked Questions

We get it, you probably have tons of questions. Be sure to browse our FAQ for answers and tweet us with any of your other thoughts!

What exactly is humanitarian douchery?

Humanitarian douchery is an umbrella term we’ve created to describe all kinds of irresponsible voluntourism. This can take a number of different forms, from volunteering for the wrong reasons and disrespecting local communities to unintentionally reinforcing stereotypes and unequal power relationships. We wanted to draw attention to the fact that voluntourism can have very negative consequences, so we wanted to emphasize the distinction between good volunteering and bad volunteering (aka humanitarian douchery). You can read more about what we mean here.

Uh... are you calling me a douche?

No, of course not! We’re sure you’re an angel. By tackling ‘humanitarian douchery’, our goal is to target problematic behaviours and practices, not individual people. We are operating on the assumption that nobody wants to be a douche (hopefully), so we are trying to provide the information and resources necessary to keep people away from the humanitarian douche trap.

But what's really wrong with voluntourism? Isn't doing something better than doing nothing at all?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the act of volunteering abroad. Where the problems come up however is when it’s not done in a socially responsible way. We are 100% pro-volunteering, but believe that in order for it to work, the volunteer must have the right intentions, mindset and a devotion to Fair Trade Learning principles. You can read more about the potential problems associated with voluntourism here.

I'm just trying to be a good person. How can I avoid being a humanitarian douche?

So happy you asked! To help steer you away from the path of humanitarian douchery, we recommend you:

What is Fair Trade Learning?

Fair Trade Learning, or FTL, is an alternative model for service learning that aims to achieve reciprocal relationships and long-lasting positive effects for all stakeholders—including the host communities, the volunteers, and in a round about way the organizations themselves. The FTL Standards and initiatives grew out of work being done by the organization Amizade in Petersfield, Jamaica—after years as one of several minor players in global university-community partnerships all of a sudden they became part of a $173 billion dollar global tourism industry via the MASSIVE GROWTH OF VOLUNTOURISM. They found themselves competing with marketing departments bigger than their entire organization bringing about red flags, alarm bells ringing, and a catalyst for better answers because CHANGE WAS NEEDED.

Through FTL, we are given a lens to look at volunteer initiatives with objectivity and determine their ACTUAL worth when it comes to SAVING THE WORLD. This means collapsing stereotypes of the ‘exotic other’ and digging deeper into the complexities of aid. To learn more, check out the FTL Principles under Our Solution or find more information in Further Readings under our Helpful Links tab.

How can I make sure I'm picking a good volunteer organization?

The key is to really research your options. Figuring out what they do, how they partner with local communities and where their money goes are all essential to ensuring that your organization is an ethical one. Our toolkit can be a very valuable resource when you’re planning your trip abroad. It details steps you can take to ensure your trip is socially responsible. Check it out here.

Okay, fine. So if I volunteer at home then, I'm good?

Well, while our campaign is specifically geared towards volunteer abroad initiatives, a lot of the problems we’ve discussed can be applied to volunteering at home as well. No matter where in the world you’re volunteering, you better make sure you know where your time, money and resources are going. Sketchy organizations (many of which are looking to turn a profit) exist all over the world, so it’s important that you research no matter what, and make sure that your skills are well matched to the work.