Voluntourism

I have begun questioning my time at Proyecto Horizonte in Bolivia. When I ask myself, "Why did you choose Bolivia?," I find that the most honest answer is: I wanted to travel to a Spanish speaking country.
I find the answer to be selfish. I want to practice my Spanish and I want to see the world. Then again, is that so bad? Learning a language allows me to communicate with a whole new set of people and I open doors to new cultures. Furthermore, travel can open one's mind to different customs and it allows you to appreciate what you took for granted back home. However, these thoughts still tend to gravitate inward.
Am I helping these children by playing sports with them? Am I really impacting the greater Ushpa-Ushpa area at all? I'm leaning towards "no." Well, I don't see any physical results. I feel like a smile on a child's face is temporary. A role model is forever. However, I can't be that role model. I'm only here for six weeks. Eliza, a Proyecto worker of four years from Australia, has made a difference on the other hand. Selfishly, I don't think I could stay in Bolivia for four years. I'd lose interest, or I think I would. Some people like Eliza fall in love with a place, a culture, the people. For me, that place is still California. Perhaps I should listen to voluntourist critics. Maybe I have more to offer back home.
Nonetheless, I do have a critique for the critics. Without this trip to Bolivia, I would not be having this debate with the same insight. Silence perpetuates more silence. There is no black or white. I am not purely giving nor purely selfish for living here. There is a balance to all things and there should always be a debate. Perhaps a smile on a child's face is forever.


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Meet The Author

Jarrod Zenjiro Suda | College of Letters and Science, Class of 2016 | University of California, at Berkeley | Major in Development Studies | Minor in Global Poverty and Practice |