Catherine Porter of The Toronto Star has had some good coverage of Haiti for a while. This article talks about some of the pitfalls of voluntourism.
If you want to help Haiti, take a vacation there. Send money to a charity you trust working on the ground. Even better, set up a micro-credit loan for a single mother so she can rebuild her shattered market stall and send her kids to school.
Just don’t go down there to volunteer for two weeks.
I know, you want to help personally. That’s noble. But your good intentions might have the opposite effect: you would be paying to do a job a Haitian is literally starving for, and the normally neglected child you are holding for a few days in a run-down orphanage might be damaged from your affection.
Those are big statements. Let me uncrate them.
Voluntourism is the new ecotourism. One 2008 survey revealed that one in five travellers had volunteered on their vacation — most of them working on small construction sites, but some helping in orphanages, teaching English, protecting egg-laying turtles in Costa Rica, cleaning up garbage at the base of Mount Everest . . . The pricey trips are marketed as “meaningful travel.” Promotional websites usually feature a white adult smiling with a black child.
I’ve been to Haiti eight times in the past year, and every flight — save the first one, which was an aid shipment — has been packed with young people in matching T-shirts on a mission. Most were with church groups planning to rebuild a school or orphanage. Some were hosting “crusades,” which are healing church services, they told me. Others planned to play with babies in orphanages, teach English in schools or help out in tent camps around the city.
Think of it this way: a $600 round-trip ticket to Haiti is just $130 short of the annual income of the average Haitian. You shouldn’t pay to do that job. A Haitian should be paid to do it.
— Catherine Porter, "Don’t go to Haiti to volunteer", The Toronto Star