The Voluntourist Documentary

Is voluntourism doing more harm than good?


“In September 2012 I set out for a year and a half long round the world trip. Starting in Colombia I travelled all the way down to Argentina then flew to Australia and finally Asia (I ran out of money at that point and sadly didn’t make it to Africa). I had left Paris (where I am originally from) with a brand new camera and the idea of making a film in the back of my head. A film, what film, who cared.

On my way I bumped into herds of western volunteers. Mostly in bars; and most of the time talking loudly about how they were helping the locals. So I turned on my camera.

I filmed the volunteers, asking them what they were doing, what impact they thought they were having on the communities and explored the idea that these types of ‘do-good’ trips were maybe at risk of doing more harm than good.

The result is The Voluntourist.”

Chloé Sanguinetti | Filmmaker


“Voluntourism” is the intersection of international volunteering and tourism, also called “volunteer tourism”, “volunteer holidays” and “volunteer travel”.

Most of the time it involves paying in order to ‘help’ a local community over a very short period of time (a few days to a few months). These trips range from construction work to childcare and often do not require volunteers to have any prior experience or skills.

Recently critics have gotten stronger towards voluntourism: pointing out that these trips are more beneficial to the volunteer than the local communities. At worst they can be harmful, notably in the case of orphanage volunteering (please visit the Resources page for more information).

This documentary does not aim to list all the possible negative impacts of poorly arranged international volunteering programs, but instead raises certain overarching questions through a series of interviews.

We are hoping to reach out to potential voluntourists, push them to ask themselves the right questions before choosing to engage in these types of programs, hopefully lowering the demand for poorly arranged programs. We wish to generate a debate around these issues and redirect the good intentions of volunteers towards more sustainable and impactful alternatives.