Many of us have seen the common instagram post of someone holding an African child in their arms, informing the world of their service trip to a developing nation. While these pictures don’t directly harm anyone, they can affect others perceptions of what a service trip/volunteering is. By framing these trips as a fun expedition to another land rather than a precise and calculated usage of time, knowledge, and resources, social media and advertising companies can make service trips highly appealing to those who can afford them, creating an influx of individuals who have the resources to pay a costly airfare and program cost, but who often lack any real world skills or knowledge that the receiving nation so desperately needs. Because of the commonality of such individuals, receiving nations may have altered perceptions of volunteers, and be less open to accepting help from individuals with actual expertise.
My question to you all: How can volunteers account for the pre-existing (and rather apparent) power/class imbalance present between a volunteer and who they are aiding? In other words, volunteers often come from high SES and privilege, but they often interact with those of a much much lower SES and privilege. How can someone communicate with who they are aiding in a way that displays empathy and understanding when they have never really faced a similar situation?