"To help others" : An explorative case study about how help is described and defined by volunteer tourists working with children and teenagers in Brazil.
Volunteer tourism is a popular way for young Westerners to discover the world and at the same take on the role as an international aid worker. For a short time they get an opportunity to improve the life conditions of people in development countries and get to know a new culture. The discourse of “making a difference” is dominating the marketing and promotion of the volunteer trips, yet little research is to be found about what the volunteers contribute with and what “help”, provided by them consist of. The main purpose of this study was to explore eventual post-colonial legacies or structures in the practice of volunteer tourism by exploring how help, in the actual context is described and defined by the volunteer tourists themselves. The thesis is based on a field study, conducted during two months in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Data was collected through 14 semi-structured interviews with volunteer tourists and observations at the volunteer sites. The data was further analysed by using terms and perspectives from post-colonial theory. The analysis show that the help from the volunteer tourists principally were supposed to compensate for deficiencies in the host community and that it was directed towards individual advancement for the kids that the volunteers encountered in the projects. Tendencies that the help-actions sometimes were based on assumptions, rather than facts about the conditions in the host community were also identified. Furthermore that the actions taken on by the volunteers sometimes implied simplified notions on ways to achieve development.
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