Thursday, February 11, 2016


Voluntourism comes in all shapes and forms.  In neighbouring Ghana it's become a profitable business for many charitable organisations that doesn't always direct the money where it should to help the NGO in question.

People of all ages from gap year students to retirees are paying what I would consider phenomenal amounts of money to 'help'.  They often arrive without skills that would be of use to the NGO in question for short periods of time that really doesn't merit their presence.  At the end they return home with photos on their social media pages surrounded by 'disadvantaged' children and another box ticked on their CV.  It's really quite sad.

Imagine the shock when a volunteer is offered the chance of a 3 month placement without paying a fee; just their flights, visa and daily costs.  Room and board included to assist a centre with trafficked children, references are obligatory as is a current police check.

An Australian art teacher was given this opportunity, previously known via their professional life in Khartoum, Sudan and more recently in Cairo, Egypt.  A reference was obtained and the police check held on file.  The objective for this volunteer was to work with the children allowing to express themselves in art whilst keeping an eye on the overall running of the centre and finances.  Very kindly money was raised to gain art supplies and buy paint to create murals at the centre, or so it said on the crowdfunder website.

Unfortunately it all changed on arrival; quickly deceived by a (now former) employee, communication was limited with the organization's board due to the employee's greed and deception.  Knowing that this volunteer had already spent time in Africa, the presumption was that the volunteer would see the reality of what was actually happening.  Sadly not! 

However, things took a turn for the worse when the volunteers website was discovered.  Firstly personal details of the children and their origins were put online (thankfully the former employee didn't carry out the correct research so the child's village is some 200km away from where they thought).  The NGO's own motorbike was used without authorisation to go miles into the bush with terrible consequences for its wear and tear, particularly on the engine. Then upon leaving the paintings done by the children had been removed so that they could be sold online ...

People close to the organization are disgusted by this behaviour, numerous messages were sent to the volunteer which remain unanswered.  There was one minor change, that the money raised by the pictures will go back into the project.  However the former employee is currently being interviewed by the police for a variety of matters, despite this conduct the two still seem to be in cahoots!

Whichever way you turn, volunteering isn't as simple as it looks!

PS. June 2016, our former coordinator was held in police cells in Abengourou for two nights for blackmail.  Only when he agreed to return the money did he escape a prison term! 

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