Dr Mary-Anne Hartley.

Voluntourism Versus a Leave of Purpose

June 2021
In the news

Voluntourism isn’t new. Every year, millions of people from wealthy nations travel to developing countries hoping to do good. Many organisations have been established to tap into this trend, merging volunteering with tourism.

Unfortunately, over the past few years, voluntourism has started to receive negative attention in the press, largely because of organisations that do more harm than good, and those that do not truly understand what communities need and what initiatives really make an impact on that community. 

And yet there is a huge need for volunteers – provided there is a deep understanding of what a community needs, and the right skills are aligned with those needs.

The Tshemba Foundation’s medical volunteer programme is designed to connect medical professionals with knowledge, skills, experience, and a deep desire to give back, with rural communities in need at the Tintswalo Hospital and its surrounding clinics.

Dr Mary-Anne Hartley, who volunteers as a clinician in rural settings around the world for several months a year, believes the Tshemba Foundation is extremely well regarded amongst both South African and international volunteer communities as a highly effective organisation through whom each volunteer’s time generates meaningful impact.

"Unfortunately, the field of medical volunteering is quite polluted with many poorly effective, for-profit ventures that have now become known as ‘voluntourism,’” says Dr Hartley, adding that it can be difficult finding NGOs that support volunteer activities in an effective, ethical and responsible manner. “In this regard, the Tshemba Foundation certainly stands out, and my visit has further validated its excellent reputation for me.”

For Dr Hartley, volunteers have an important role to play in rural communities. “Tshemba’s volunteers come from a range of multidisciplinary backgrounds. They are even sometimes internationally renowned specialists in their fields. While some people may feel that to be a strange juxtaposition, I believe that their expertise is perfectly matched with the extreme needs within these often-isolated communities.”

Read the full article as featured in MedPharm here.