Once again, not all voluntourism is bad. That said, a lot of it can be. Here at End Humanitarian Douchery, we believe in an alternative model of international volunteering called Fair Trade Learning. In an environment where $$$ makes the world go ’round, an unfortunate consequence is the imperative to commodify EVERYTHING. Seeing this imperative bleed into all facets of life is nowhere as devastating as witnessing ‘voluntouring’ EXPLODE as a growth market. When aid gets turned into commodity, the lines can get blurry which makes it hard to see through the fog, you know? We all mean well but it can be easy to let our good intentions get muddled up in bad (douchey) behaviours, especially when we lose sight of our purpose as volunteers.  Enter FTL.

What is Fair Trade Learning?

The good news is this: we can avoid unintentionally douchey behaviour through becoming self-aware and knowledgeable about the good and bad in volunteering. Luckily, FTL offers some great guiding principles to light the path toward achieving responsible volunteering and ending humanitarian douchery!

(preferably before it gets seriously out of hand).  

“Fair Trade Learning is a global educational partnership exchange that prioritizes reciprocity in relationships though cooperative, cross-cultural participation in learning, service, and civil efforts.”

So what does that mean? FTL is meant to be a community-driven response to the market pressures of international volunteering. This is about creating RECIPROCAL relationships that are community driven and that offer long-term sustainable betterment for all involved. It’s about creating a global community that values equality & shifting the power structures of development from a perspective of privilege that takes a top-down approach to one that looks at service from eye level. This shift also entails shifting the focus of volunteer initiatives to one of lasting & sustainable change, eliminating shortsighted one-sided relationships between volunteers and host communities. The FTL model has been adopted from a collaborative effort (including a series of publications) between the academic institutions Providence College & Middlesex University Dubai, and the organization Amizade Global Service Learning.

FTL suggests the following 8 Guiding Principles:


1. Explicit dual purposes in our work, serving community and serving students simultaneously, and explicitly not privileging students over community (Mutual and reciprocal relationship building) 
2. Community voice and direction at every step in the process (community driven initiatives)
3. Institutional commitment and partnership sustainability–and scholarshipping multidirectional exchange
4. Transparency, specifically in respect to economic relationships and transactions 
5. Environmental Sustainability and Footprint Reduction
6. Economic Sustainability in terms of effort to mange funding incursions in the receiving community and fund development at the university in a manner that takes a long view of the relationships involved
7. Deliberate diversity, intercultural contact, and reflection to systematically encourage intercultural learning and development among participants and community partners
8. Global community building–in the sense that we keep an eye always on the question of how this work pushes us into better relationships around the world; how our civil society networks grow into community; how our efforts abroad should inform our actions at home. 


We have used the FTL Principles as a backbone for framing our alternative take on today’s volunteering initiatives. Although these principles were set out primarily through an academic lens with student study abroad programs in mind, they have resonated strongly with us throughout the process of creating a plan to end humanitarian douchery and promote responsible action. If you would like to read more about the story behind FTL click here.

So, we have some principles to guide our way...

Let’s get our hands dirty & separate the GOOD from the BAD (from the UGLY) when it comes to volunteering abroad.

To learn how this has been turned into a tool to end the douchery, come with me..