December 1, 2022

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Looking to Help Ukrainian Refugees? A ‘Voluntourism’ Guide

2 min read

Ultimately, we decided to spend two weeks in Krakow with A Drop in the Ocean. The volunteers we worked with came from Norway, Italy, the Republic of Georgia, Germany, Spain, the United States, England, Ireland and Poland. They are currently short on volunteers and desperately need help.

Volunteer tourism might seem like a fairly new phenomenon, but its roots go back to the post-World War II era with the founding of the Voluntary Service Overseas organization in Britain in 1958, and President John F. Kennedy founding the Peace Corps in 1961. Voluntourism has since continued to grow in popularity with organizations like Habitat for Humanity bringing awareness to it. But as Benjamin Lough, a global volunteer researcher and professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, wrote to me in an email, “Trends in voluntourism, as with travel generally, tend to follow expectable patterns that rely on changes in the economy as well as social and political issues.” He added, “I anticipate that voluntourism anywhere close to Ukraine has probably increased by several times recently. When the media flags that help is needed, voluntourism responds.”

That seems like the case in Poland. Like most nongovernmental organizations seeking volunteers in Poland, A Drop in the Ocean doesn’t pay for travel, food or lodging. They do help in recommending accommodations, though, and they negotiated a cheaper rate for about $58 for a double per night, including breakfast, for volunteers at the nearby Hampton by Hilton.

On any average day there are about 20 foreign volunteers helping at the free shop, where more than 1,000 people receive about 9,000 items in a single day. Ms. Jacobsen of A Drop in the Ocean told me her organization has a commitment to stay in Krakow until the fall.

“But if the war continues, we are prepared to stay longer,” she said.


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David Farley

2022-05-11 09:00:23

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