By Maria Ekarista
Good intentions, money and the desire to help are the essential elements for voluntourism, yet does it creates more harm than good?
Voluntourism, a term smashed together from volunteer and tourism, is a form of service where individuals contribute their time to participate in voluntary work overseas.
For most schools in Australia, participating their time to help is not an obligated activity for their school report. For IB students, however, the will to help is something they were instilled with. Doing voluntary work is an essential curriculum for IB students to graduate their high school.
Introduced as Creativity, Action & Services, CAS enables students to enhance their personal and interpersonal development by learning through experience. According to the IBO website, CAS provides opportunities for self-determination and collaboration with others, fostering a sense of accomplishment and enjoyment.
However, IB students are often overwhelmed since, in addition to doing a minimum of 100 hours of volunteer services, they have to do six different subjects, the Extended Essay (EE) and Theory of Knowledge (TOK) presentation.
Vrisqha, a second-year student majoring in Human Resources and International Business in UNSW and an IB graduate from Mentari Intercultural School mentioned that some of her friends dropped out from IB because they felt that IB itself become useless.
“It was painful,” says Vrisqha reminiscing her time where she was told do subjects she dislikes. “I chose one hard subject that I will forever regret to this point – Physics.”
Admitting IB’s reputation as the hardest system for high school students, most people are unaware that having to do more for IB is a hassle.
“We are already stuck- we have a lot of studies to do and my friends feel like they have to do this as an extra,” says Sarah, an alumnus from British International School in Indonesia. “So they don’t put their hearts into it, and yea I guess those people do exist…”
Widy Yusuf, working as a CAS Coordinator in Global Jaya for nine years, shares her experiences working to observe Year 11 and Year 12 student movements. Not necessarily taking CAS projects solely for the community, students are allowed to organise their own event by planning, initiating and working collaboratively with others. However, she stated that some students who “would take it as half-measure” and aren’t doing the service earnestly.
“The completion of their journal, part of their CAS requirements, could sometime make the students a bit reluctant to do,” says Yusuf.
Caroline Michelle, an IB graduate from Sekolah Pelita Harapan (SPH) also expresses critics towards the program. As a student who did a variety of CAS projects such as volunteering in a hearing disability centre, teaching kids basic math and English, volunteering in an animal centre that’s run by the disabled people, starting her own swimming club and travelled to Papua to help people, raises her concerns and questioned the program to see if CAS is worth doing or not.
“There’s definitely issues and opinion raised against CAS projects,” she says. “Honestly, I did see a few students who try to fake it. They would get their nanny or their driver to be the supervisor and just make a signature cause all you need really is a signature, it’s not like they need to call every supervisor to confirm.”
Sharing similarities with how voluntourism is perceived in Australia, IB service program creates the idea behind travelling far as an understanding of how students take advantage of the situation as a short holiday, for pictures purposes and less for helping out.
“For that kind of people […] they don’t have any responsibility towards- I feel like if you travel to another country so far away, the distance does play a role in your psychological wellbeing, ‘oh this doesn’t really matter, it’s not my responsibility’,” says Sarah.
“There’s multiple things you can do here in high school, NGOs can go abroad because they know what they’re doing and they’re specialised […] but for high schools, something within their own area would be better cause they could see the changes and are more responsible if something happens.”
Alvin, a first-year student studying Data Science in UNSW, indicates that voluntourism is an inefficient use of money. The cost of air travel is far greater than what’s contributed to the area they are volunteering in.
“I know the IB have a good purpose and I feel like they were comparing in regards to if you have an IB school in your area, your area must have been at least good,” he says. “But not every country have that.”
“I know someone living five kilometres away from me is struggling to pay for rent and food. So […] it’s more beneficial for me to spend more money on the person nearby me rather than spending less money on a person’s further away from me.”
Broadening the student’s experience isn’t necessary with travelling far. However, the extent of versatility comes into mind.
Some Indonesian have the tendency to keep their opinion to themselves as they are mainly taught not to be open-minded and are scared of the public judgements. Living in their own little bubble, “people don’t really see it as a problem if it’s not affecting them,” says Sarah. “That’s a really bad attitude.”
Some did confront their opinions but were silenced due to their school just started using IB program for three years. But others shared different beliefs. Advocating their position as students, they believe that benefits can be found from doing CAS.
In contrast to the controversial issue surrounding Australia local schools, Indonesian International IB schools already pursued their tradition to give money and goods donation to an orphanage near their schools when celebrating a school event.
“Even if we go to a privileged school or like a private school, and where we were located we’re exactly in those high-end places, we’re still located where there are lots of small villages,” says Vrisqha. “So by helping them we also see the struggle that other people are facing.”
Her biggest event yet was hosting a Charity Gala Dinner where her group donated profits from ticket sales to an orphanage near her school. Donating directly to the community rather than some random orphanage gives a sense of closure to her.
“I help around the direct community in school since it’s both easy and makes a bigger impact because they know our school (reputation), so it gives both good images for the school and ourselves.”
The worth will depend on whether you see voluntourism “for good intention and not just there to put in your social media or where you say ‘oh yeah, I’m volunteering’ but turns out you did absolutely nothing.” ‘Forcing you’ comes convenient, as a society nowadays needs a push to do something to get a taste of how it feels for people to find their capabilities in services.
“In the future, you’re bound to do some of the volunteering and services,” she says. “CAS is not only about services it’s also about having you try a new thing, expanding your horizon and experiences.”
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