Promoting Voluntourism will benefit Ghana’s economy – Part 1

Volunteer travel, volunteer vacations or voluntourism is travel which includes volunteering for a charitable cause. (Wikipedia). Tourism in which travelers do voluntary work to help communities or the environment in the places they are visiting (Dictionary.com). “Voluntourism” is the intersection of international volunteering and tourism, also called variously “volunteer tourism”, “volunteer holidays” and “volunteer travel”. It is “the practice of individuals going on a working holiday, volunteering their labour for worthy causes”  such as “aiding or alleviating the material poverty of some groups in society; the restoration of certain specific environments or research into aspects of society or environment”, “for various reasons”, “in an organised way” , “alongside touristic activities”.  Visitors whose work is remunerated at a destination are excluded from tourism (UNWTO, 1998), thus paid working holidays or international development volunteering differs from voluntourism. Rather, voluntourism usually involves some fee to participate. According to the UNWTO definition (1995), tourism voluntourism, can be domestic or international, from any originating market and up to one consecutive year. Voluntourism is often promoted as a way to experience authenticity within the context of alternative tourism beneficial to destinations, leading to expectations of a responsible tourism ethos, creating “better places for people to live in, and better places to visit.

I was watching a program on television and a man promoting volunteerism in Ghana. I was not surprised when I found out apparently; he has lived abroad (Europe) for many years and had seen the benefits of volunteering and how important it has also been to the economy of the developed countries. One wonders whether anyone living in Ghana would pay for airtime to promote voluntourism. Little airtime has been given to this type of tourism especially on our prime time morning shows. I therefore felt this is the time to begin to create awareness of this type of tourism most especially considering that a large number of Ghana’s population is youth and the fact that Ghana has a large number of underprivileged communities. One question stakeholders need to answer is; are the youth in Ghana today willing to volunteer their time building some toilets, in some villages without receiving any remuneration? Are they willing to help alleviate poverty in underprivileged communities? With the high levels of graduates’ unemployment, we need to find out how do they spend their time whiles waiting for the right jobs? Are they willing to volunteer? Do they understand the importance and benefits associated with Voluntourism? If not, are they to be blamed? Have we been serious in promoting Voluntourism? What are available statistics regarding Voluntourism? Ghana is blessed to have a high youth population and according to the United Nations the youth to encompass all persons 15-24 years. This appears to be a universal definition. However, due to differences in national policies, this may vary. In Ghana, the National Youth Policy classifies all persons 15-35 years to constitute the youth of the country (Republic of Ghana, 2010). This means, the youth overlap adolescents and children between 15 and 19 years and beyond the 24 year-old cut-off used by the United Nations. Ghana’s population has remained youthful and this is reflected in all the national censuses conducted in the country since independence. Almost one out of every four people in Ghana was reported to be aged 20-35 years. However, persons 15-35 years, who form the youth according to the National Youth Policy, constitute about a third of the population of Ghana.

The Millennials

Millennials, also known as Generation Y or the Net Generation, are the demographic cohort that directly follows Generation X. The term Millennials is usually considered to apply to individuals who reached adulthood around the turn of the 21st century. The precise delineation varies from one source to another, however. Neil Howe and William Strauss, authors of the 1991 book Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069, are often credited with coining the term. Howe and Strauss define the Millennial cohort as consisting of individuals born between 1982 and 2004.

Years for Millennials

Other proposed dates for Millennials:

  • According to Iconoclast, a consumer research firm, the first Millennials were born in 1978.
  • Newsweek magazine reported that the Millennial generation was born between 1977 and 1994.
  • In separate articles, the New York Times pegged the Millennials at 1976-1990 and 1978-1998.
  • A Time magazine article placed the Millennials at 1980-2000.

Overall, the earliest proposed birthdate for Millennials is 1976 and the latest 2004. Nevertheless, the particular environment for any generation affects those individuals in ways that are observable as broad tendencies.  Millennials grew up in an electronics-filled and increasingly online and socially-networked world. They grew up with computers around them. They are the generation that has received the most marketing attention. As the most ethnically diverse generation, Millennials tend to be tolerant of difference. Ghana faces a serious challenge today because the current youth which falls under the Millennials years are become very addicted to these electronic gadgets especially smart phones and virtually spend so much time on social media like what’s app, facebook twitter, snapchat, etc. Unlike the generation before who had less distractions from these things, today Millennials seems to fortunate or unfortunate depending on the lenses with which one looks at the issues. Nevertheless for the purposes of promoting Voluntourism, if the promotion is not done now and vigorously, our youth will not be involved into it. I have personally tried to promote it by taken students to the Volta region on such expedition. Over the years I have found it difficult to sustain it and getting the students involved because they all seem to wanting to work to make ends meet. Others are more interested in activities related to entertainment.

Conversely, young volunteers mostly are from abroad. One of such person wrote this comment; Volunteering is good both for the volunteers and the organization getting the benefits. We could meet so many new faces and interact with them globally. It would enhance the personality of a person, especially, the teen agers and the youth. I started volunteering from my boyhood collecting charity for the mission league a church based society. That really enhanced my personality and I am not hesitating to meet anybody. I have been volunteering in London for the Newham volunteers since 2005. I also rendered valuable services for the 2012 Olympics by spending more than a month. It is good in every respect. Improve the self-confidence of the volunteers and social awareness and mentality. All the more a positive approach and work culture without any reservation takes place. But one of the problems I see today is the business mentality of a number of organisations. A number of job opportunities are being lost on account of the volunteering. That is not good for the economy as it aggravates the unemployment problem. Otherwise what I suggest is every parent should send their children for some kind of volunteering through which they will develop a positive outlook towards life and themselves.
Dr.Joy K.Joseph.

THE ECONOMIST reports that Andy Haldane, the chief economist of the Bank of England. Mr Haldane is known for his work on financial regulation gave a lecture about volunteering. The lecture had a simple message. Volunteering has a much larger impact on society than most people think. Take Britain. Mr Haldane reckons that each year formal volunteers—those engaged in activities organised through some sort of organisation—do the equivalent amount of work as 1.25m “proper” employees. The British volunteer labour force is only slightly smaller than the NHS, which employs 1.4m Britons. Each year, nearly 1 billion people are engaged in volunteering worldwide, according to a  study. Some countries volunteer much more than others Statisticians often ignore the economic impact of volunteering. It is not captured by GDP statistics because no monetary transaction takes place. He drew on a variety sources and estimated the three types of value that volunteering creates: economic, private and social. Economic value is the easiest to understand: when volunteers give up their time to paint a building or feed the homeless, what is the value of the output they are producing? How much would we need to pay for these jobs to be done, if there were no volunteers? The Office for National Statistics reckons that frequent, formal volunteering produces about £24 billion of economic output for Britain. That’s equivalent to 1.5% of GDP. Volunteering produces twice as much value as the agriculture sector and about the same amount as the telecoms sector. Informal volunteering—different kinds of mutual help and co-operation between individuals—might add another £19 billion of output. Add in infrequent volunteering and you’re looking at around £50 billion, roughly the size of the British energy sector. The private value of volunteering is trickier to measure. The evidence suggests that volunteering is great for well-being—in fact, on average only health and employment prospects are more important. (As an aside: watching television detracts from it.) It is possible to translate these into monetary-equivalent values—the dosh someone would need to be given to increase their well-being by the same amount. On average, people would need to be compensated with about £2,400 per year to miss the opportunity to volunteer. That’s a hefty sum for the average Briton, whose median salary is about £23,000. So, if there are 15 million or so regular volunteers, you get a private benefit of volunteering of around £36 billion per year. And then there are the social benefits. Helping homeless people off the street has, in econo-speak, significant “positive externalities”: improved employment and income prospects, lower criminal activity, lower risk of mental-health problems, and so forth. Mr Haldane wants to get more people volunteering. His youthful enthusiasm was infectious. He was especially convincing when he presented research that suggested non-volunteers systematically underestimate quite how much they would like volunteering.

Philip Gebu is a Tourism Lecturer. He is the C.E.O of FoReal Destinations Ltd, a Tourism Destinations Management and Marketing Company based in Ghana and with partners in many other countries. Please contact Philip with your comments and suggestions. Write to forealdestinations@gmail.com / info@forealdestinations.com. Visit our website at www.forealdestinations.com or call or WhatsApp +233(0)244295901/0264295901.Visist our social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: FoReal Destinations.