Global citizenship can be characterized by humility, sensitivity, and acknowledgement of the human dignity that everyone is entitled to. Additionally, a large aspect of global citizenship is continuous reflection and acknowledging that all living beings on this earth are interdependent. However, as a result of power inequalities, Western notions are generally privileged within the global citizenship discourse.
In the article “Giving Back: A Special Report on Volunteer Vacations”, Dorinda Elliott contemplates the pros and cons of volunteer vacations, or so called ‘voluntourism’. It seems that in many cases, Western people will go to a community with preconceived notions, and while there, volunteers might only perceive what they expected to see. By having these prejudices, volunteers might think of themselves as “alien angles swooping in to help”. Given this notion of ‘white saviorism’, volunteers might not treat the local community with dignity; thus furthering Western notions, while marginalizing indigenous worldviews. As a result, many volunteer groups are “condescending and insensitive” towards the culture and the local people, in some cases doing “more harm than good”. For this reason, I believe it is important to consider to what extent your actions are selfless and aim to truly help others; and to what extent the actions are selfish, and are benefiting you more than the local community.
Though Elliott provides recommendations for voluntourism, she does admit that people locally could probably do the same job, perhaps even better. However, Elliott concludes that volunteers are needed to get the funding. This leaves me wondering though, if one aspires to become a global citizen, and treat everyone with dignity and respect, wouldn’t it be better to just donate the money?
Or better yet, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate the global structures that are leaving some communities dependent upon the West.