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5. Conclusion

Women-centered NGOs aim to be a safe haven by providing information in a way so that women do not feel victimized or deficient, but instead feel a growing sense of empowerment to gain some control over their bodies and health, above what doctors, vaccines, and hospitals can provide. The simple and women-controlled measures that Love Binti postulate, from sharing pad-sewing skills with peers to opening dialogues for safe sex, look at public health goals in a broader realm that cannot be solved simply by new medical technology or doctors’ knowledge. What matters is to increase individuals’ awareness by taking actions that can have major effects on themselves and their families’ health. Additionally, cultures bring order and meaning to our lives (Eckersley, 2006). Love Binti exemplifies how women’s NGOs can seek to link with trained seed teachers or local project practitioners by offering culturally tailored strategies and proper preparation for voluntourists in doing health volunteer work.

5.1 Orienting the community empowerment from within

The purpose of volunteering is to offer services to underserved people within a short-term period, which often leads to the question of high and unrealistic expectations from both the voluntourists and host communities. One way to tackle this common dilemma is to win the hearts of the community from within by fine-tuning appropriate plans that are acceptable for both parties. Undoubtedly, globalization has and will continue shaping images, values, and experiences diffused worldwide. Since this is an unavoidable phenomenon, organization-formed voluntourism needs to bear in mind of local identities, sociocultural norms and so forth the creation of positive guidance from voluntourist to community developers or the other way around.

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Sustainable long-term plans for voluntourists

“Though with good intentions, there exists significant ethical challenges for performing medical treatment in the volunteer program. If the voluntourists either from medical or non-medical trained background are prepared improperly, it can burden the host communities and waste resources” (Unite for Site Inc, 2013). The process of educating voluntourism participants about the host community, its medical or social problems, and effective treatment targeting those problems, should be taught before the trip begins. As VT2 mentioned in the interview: “it is necessary for us to complete the whole pad-making process in the preparation meeting. The meeting we have currently is too casual, not even to be called as the meeting.”

To summarize the proposed pre-departure preparation training for the voluntourists engaged in short-term health-related works in developing countries, sessions should focus on one country or region, learning the local language, the local health problems, as well as the systems of traditional and modern care. Most importantly, the voluntourists should be taught to respect local cultural norms and be provided with tools to assess the agency offering the international health care programs. Through the evaluation of a program’s disadvantages or advantages, the voluntourists are engaged and gained trust among the local community appropriately.

According to Suchdey (2007), the first step for the voluntourists is to understand the sociopolitical context of the community in order to “identify evidence-based solutions”

(p.318) so that resources can be prepared accordingly and appropriately. Then is the organization’s efforts to educate the community teachers will be able to incorporate them as the integral part for improving the health of the local community. With this capability placed in the hands of community teachers, the local health committee can continue to practice the interventions themselves.

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Furthermore, the researcher discovered the importance of learning the host country’s language, which can draw a greater positive impact to the hosts, gaining trusts and dropping hostility. One way for volunteers to show that they are not ignorant is to learn the language of those they are volunteering to. Language is not merely a foreign tongue, but a special set of cultural vocabulary that enables voluntourists to frame meaningful questions. Sharing a language is a powerful way of crossing the boundary between insiders and outsiders. Learning the language suggests a willingness to enter into the world of the interviewees and accept their norms and values. It is a goodwill gesture with an effort taken. Once the hosts deliver the phrase

“you speak my language,” it is a metaphor for being inside (Rubin et al., 2011, p.172).

Through participant observation, the researcher can often learn enough to convince local people that the voluntourists can understand at least of their humanitarian purpose of visit and are really not so much an outsider after all, since some cultural practices are learned through observation. “When needs within a population are very similar, the very similar, the variation between tailored messages will be minimal or nonexistent, and thus tailoring is unjustified. Instead, a targeted approach may be more appropriate to address that need. Therefore, strategies for achieving cultural appropriateness should match the nature of the problem being addressed” (Kreuter et al., p143).

NGO, NPO, CBO, Grassroots coordination

Utilizing sociocultural strategies to discuss health-related issues means addressing the context of broader social and cultural values and characteristics of the intended audience (Kreuter, 2003). Stronger coordination between NGO, NPO, CBO, and grassroots organizations can advance the community development in an efficient way. Love Binti, Step 30 has zoned powers with other organizations such as Forgotten People Connection from Canada, and EcoPost, Precious Kids Centre in

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Kenya to obtain community associations. The future plan of the organization is to recycle plastics scattered in Kitale, accumulating due to the failed governmental role of collecting garbage, in order to make of aesthetic, durable, and environmentally friendly plastic lumber. Therefore, the social enterprise EcoPost in Kenya lends its techniques to Step 30 in Kitale, addressing challenges of “plastic pollution, urban waste management, unemployment, deforestation and climate change” (EcoPost, 2013). Additionally, Step 30 has provided containers to Precious Kids Centre, which operates a rehabilitation center to equip parents and educate the community become more supportive and accepting of disabled children. What the researcher sees in these collaborations is the enacting of positive changes not only to the voluntourists, but also to the poor communities being served. The optimism of Love Binti, Step 30 concerning social networking for development is reflected both in the literature and in practice established in the field of identifying and building routes for possible cooperation with the local entities. With the strong combination of the organizations and systematized slum tourism development, an integrated network of sustainable community empowerment can be built.

Economic implications

Similar to what Kenyan NGOs face in terms of dwindling financial resources, the NGO from Taiwan also faces the two main factors in Kenya that conceivably impede their performance: 1) global economic recession, and 2) political transformation. These factors have led to the reduction of services and the demise of weak NGOs. Individual donors, voluntourists, or heads of foundations, through fundraising appear frequently as the pivotal part of running a nongovernmental organization. However, as what Suriya (2010) described, “community-based tourism can serve as a hope to fight poverty,” and building a transparent and structural community-based tourism for the voluntourists traveling along the way to the local

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hosts can be a way out. “Community-based tourism [brings]…the financial benefits of tourism to the local economy” (Planeterra.org, 2012). What should be central concerns for voluntourism stemming from slum tourism is the potentiality to stimulate local entrepreneurship and its economic implications. The best examples considered by the researcher are the successful business models of M-Pesa3 and Cera Maji4 (see Picture 4&5) with the economical resolution for reaching out to the poor. Furthermore, after the researcher visited the Kitale town, and greater Kenya, she observed great potential for business opportunities from the local sphere to the international level. In January 2007, Kenya’s capital Nairobi has hosted the World Social Forum (WSF), attracting a bundle of worldwide political tourists. It is stated that the Nairobi WSF has gathered around 20,000 to 30,000 international visitors that year (Mbugua and Ongwen, 2005; Wolfson, 2007). Evidences also shows that with Nairobi being the home to African headquarters of the UN and other international businesses branches in the city, economic implications can be a propeller for all regions of this developing country in the near future.

3 M-Pesa, which in Swahili means “mobile-money,” was launched in 2007 as a mobile-phone based money transfer service. It allows no difference in the rich and poor to deposit money into the account on their cell-phones. It is estimated that 3.5 years after launched, over 70% of Kenyan households and over 50% of the unbanked, rural populations are using this service (CGAP, 2014).

4 Cera Maji is a foundational project manufacturing, marketing, and distributing household ceramic water filter that are inexpensive, efficient, and sustainably produced in Kenya. The researcher has seen the community school in slums using the filter to provide children clean drinking water (ICChange, 2007).

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5.2 Limitations &suggestions

As the research-backed study is based on a comparatively small scale of empirical research situated in a rather specific context, the findings might not be applicable to every country that is a voluntourism destination. However, what the concepts of

“volunteering in Africa” or “Africa” imply. “Africa,” though an often mentioned geographical term, remains to be a general and ambiguous description. The definition of Africa can be seen from many domains: socioeconomic, historical, cultural, social, religion, racial etc. In this research, the interviewees are given the liberty to picture their perspectives and imagination of Africa and what volunteering would be like. It can be found that the commonly features voluntourists linked with Africa is poverty, disease, a lost continent, and corrupt government. Mostly, the information supporting these nations is collected from media; however, those negativities may be dispelled once visiting the continent. Therefore, future studies could expand to include how the media portrayal of Africa influences voluntourists’ anticipations before, and reflections after their trip.

Picture4. M-Pesa agent seen everywhere Picture 5. Cera Maji placed in the school

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Another limitation of being a participant-as-observer, is that the researcher risks the potentiality to “over-identify with the informant and start to lose the research perspective by ‘going native’” (Gold, 1958). It has been criticized by researchers that once the participants were informed, their behavior tended to become altered, as in the example where the local interviewee only referred to positive influences brought by voluntourists in the findings and emphasized awkwardly that no negative impacts were brought to the site.

The other limitation of the present research that calls for future scholarly attention is taking voluntourists’ portfolios into consideration. As mentioned in the methodology, most of the voluntourists are filled with desire to do social good, willingness to offer monetary aid and donate goods, but with zero experiences volunteering overseas or merely speaking fluent English. A voluntary trip to Kenya costs nearly 100,000 NTD, which implies that a certain economic strength is needed, and only middle or upper-middle class citizens could afford to participate. Though the relations between societal class and volunteering cannot be fully proven in this research, previous studies show that voluntourism might be a transnational luxury restricted to upper middle class.

This leads to an insufficient and uncertain frame of imagination for crossing over national boundaries. The researcher also wants to suggest another equally important inquiry for future research into why the voluntary groups seem to constitute mostly female volunteers. Though women are typically described as possessing the caring and loving characteristics toward others, it might be more complicated than this. The majority of women volunteers may attribute greatly to a socialized gender construction, possibly portrayed through media or socioeconomics; the historical juncture of its formation merits further analysis.

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