It often is. Visiting the developing world as a volunteer may not do as much good as you'd hope for.
Too many travellers carry a naively romantic idea of doing good alongside their luggage. "Unfortunately, they are led by their hearts and not their heads and unknowingly support environments that may be abusive to children," said Mark Turgesen, international co-ordinator ofChildSafe Network, which protects children from abuse. Last month, the British owner of an orphanage near Siem Reap was charged with sexual assault of a teenage boy; up to 100 children were moved to a safe house by investigators.
Inevitably, the needs of impoverished communities are subverted by the demands of wealthy visitors. Alexia Nestora ran the North American arm of a major "voluntourism" group and admitted such firms loved orphanage stops. "They sell the best and are the most tearjerking projects to pitch to the media. Volunteers come away with the classic picture with an orphan and tell all their friends about their experience – as a business person I loved this." However, she started to question their validity once she went into the field and discovered the work carried out by volunteers was often unnecessary, as admitted by organisers. "The funding they bring with them is the attractive part."