HEALTHY LIVING

Who Gains the Most from Voluntourism?

12/03/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The University of Arizona sends record numbers of students to study abroad every year. Increasingly, international exchange is viewed as a vital component to the enrichment of our academic career. Not only does study abroad add dimension to our academic studies, but international travel broadens cultural perspectives and imparts invaluable lessons about the complexity and variety of our world.

The growth of study abroad and student exchange programs is illustrative of a broader phenomenon--not only are students venturing out of the country to study, but they are also travelling to developing countries to build schools for the poor, preserve threatened wildlife habitats, and volunteer with AIDS patients.

And students are not alone. According to the Travel Industry Association of America, more than fifty-five million Americans have participated in so-called volunteer vacations--vacations including a jaunt in charitable activities abroad--and some one hundred million Americans are contemplating similar trips.

The American commitment to volunteerism fused with our intrepid thirst for travel has created a burgeoning industry of volunteer-abroad service providers. This new brand of volunteer service differs from organizations like the Peace Corps in that it often thrusts untrained individuals into projects in developing countries for a much shorter time period.

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