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Kansas City Latino History and Culture

Posted By IRC, Monday, June 3, 2019

Eight years ago, my life became intimately intertwined with the Latino community for the first time. I had recently accepted a job with the Univision affiliate in Kansas City, managing sales for the global Spanish-language television network. Although I was hired to sell the Latino culture and what it represented to advertisers, I was swiftly sold myself. Quickly, I became immersed in the Hispanic community, becoming familiar with neighborhoods like Argentine, Armourdale, and Rosedale. These communities served as havens to a wave of immigrants when Kansas City became a hub for railroad expansion at the turn of the century.

Although Mexican laborers played an important role in Kansas City’s development, they were often met with discrimination. Mexican children were not allowed into certain schools. Their parents were exploited in the workforce and were often refused services at hospitals and government agencies.

As the need for basic services within the Mexican community grew, Guadalupe Center opened its doors in 1919, becoming one of the first social service agencies in the nation. Over the past 100 years, the organization has improved the lives of countless individuals.

Another organization that has touched the lives of many Latinos in Kansas City is the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. In 1958, Hector Barreto Sr. arrived from Guadalajara, Mexico. His first job was picking potatoes for 50 cents an hour. He later worked in a packinghouse and as a school custodian. Barreto had big dreams, however – not only for his family, but also for the entire Hispanic community. Eventually, he became a successful restauranteur and, in 1977 along with other Latino businessman, founded the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City (HCCGKC). Under Barreto’s leadership, the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce was chartered in 1979, making Kansas City the birthplace of the national Hispanic Chamber. This rags-to-riches story is truly remarkable. Not only would Barreto go on to serve as the President of the national Hispanic Chamber, he was also appointed to President Ronald Reagan’s transition team in 1980.

Over the past four decades, HCCGKC has tutored and groomed scores of business owners. Hispanics are an entrepreneurial bunch. Nationwide, they are 1.5 times more likely than the general population to start a small business, and Latina-owned businesses are growing five times faster than any other group. This spirit of entrepreneurialism and innovation doesn’t just positively impact the Hispanic community; it benefits Kansas City and the nation as a whole.

In 2013, I was elected to serve on HCCGKC’s board, where I’ve had the honor to follow such trailblazers as Barreto. I’ve also had the honor to serve for and alongside, among others, Chileans, El Salvadorians, Brazilians, Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans, and Bolivians. Kansas City’s Latin American community is comprised of a rainbow of multiculturalism.

While I’ve since moved on from Univision, I haven’t moved on from the Latino culture. Recently, I took a trip to Santiago, Chile, with my significant other, whom I met through HCCGKC. The combination of compassion and commerce – a mirror of Guadalupe Center and HCCGKC’s work – is on full display in Santiago. We toured the Sanctuary on San Cristobal Hill, where Pope John Paul II prayed and blessed the city in 1987; and we visited Garmin’s Santiago office, a sleek, modern skyscraper overlooking the majestic Andean mountains.

As I reflected on the stunning views, I came to the realization that the core pillars of hard work, determination, compassion, and collaboration is essential to succeed. This is true for global companies such as Garmin, expanding their footprint. It is true of migrants from Mexico. And it is also true of our communities in general.

I am hopeful that we can apply lessons learned from Kansas City’s history – both the good and the bad – to become a beacon for compassion and commerce and to offer a bridge when waters are troubled, so others facing challenges can rise to the heights that Barreto achieved. A rising tide truly lifts all boats, regardless of their entry point.

About the Author
Chelan David is a board member of the International Relations Council. Chelan graduated from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and currently serves as the director of development for Youth Volunteer Corps. Prior to YVC, he worked at Univision where he launched D’Latinos, a local community program that gives leaders a platform to address important issues impacting the Hispanic community in Kansas City. Chelan plays an active role in the Latino community serving on the board of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.


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Member Spotlight: Alan Felton

Posted By IRC, Monday, May 27, 2019
Updated: Thursday, May 23, 2019

Alan Felton, a dual United States and Australian citizen, is a proud husband, father, grandfather, and entrepreneur. In the 1970s and 1980s, he established a modest export business from Australia to the U.S. with animal health products. In 1989, he moved to the U.S. with his family to develop Felton Medical, Inc. Felton Medical was established to act as a marketer, warehouse, and importer of animal health products such as health devices and nutraceuticals throughout the United States and other countries. Ten years later, in 1999, Alan founded Pulse Needlefree Systems, Inc. as a spinoff venture of Felton Medical. The core technology was a complicated technical transfer from the Russian Military. Pulse Needlefree Systems was a team of 15 individuals, including several Russian nationals, working towards developing and marketing needle-free injection systems for animals and humans. Alan has not been active in Pulse since 2003, and Felton Medical was sold in May 2008. Now, Alan is the President of Felton Associates, LLC, founded in2008. Felton Associates is a strategic consulting, business planning, and marketing development company in agriculture business and life science. A key customer has been the King Techina Group of Hangzhou, China.

Alan, a member of the International Relations Council, has had an interest in international relations for many years. He enjoys traveling, seeing the world, and experiencing new cultures. He has traveled to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, China, India, Russia, Kazakhstan, France, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Mexico, and Poland. Apart from Alan’s curiosity for different cultures, his business ventures have helped pave the way to many culturally significant experiences across the world. Felton Medical, Pulse Needlefree Systems, and Felton Associates have had, to a degree, a business connection tied to the global space. For example, Pulse Needlefree Systems required technology from Russia which was challenging and time-consuming to obtain. To deal with two different government styles, one must recognize the difference in regulations and the overall culture of a business. This experience emphasized the importance and need to be aware and knowledgeable of cultural differences in both a personal and professional space. In 1989, Alan chose Kansas City as his new home for himself, family, and business. 41 years later, he still believes it was one of the best decisions he has made, stating, “I have made some bad calls over the years, but the decision to locate and live here (KC) was one of the best.”


The IRC spotlights our members and their diverse work and interests in the international space. To learn more or to indicate interest in being spotlighted in an upcoming post, please visit:

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The "Good Earth" of China

Posted By IRC, Monday, May 13, 2019

It's no secret that China has cornered the market on manufacturing – particularly that of cutting-edge technology such as Apple's iPad and iPhone. But just why this is so seems to require more of an answer than just China's cheap labor – neighboring Asian countries such as Vietnam and Thailand boast similarly low-cost and highly motivated work forces but fail to attract high-tech manufacturers at a similar rate. Another more comprehensive answer suggests that China's flexible and dedicated manufacturers may be more efficient than that of competing nations, but it still may be missing key details. An article by Elizabeth Chamberlain suggests that China's near total monopoly on rare earth elements may play a significant role in luring electronics companies into doing business in the country.

Rare earth elements are found in nearly all modern consumer electronics, and as demand for everything from smartphones to televisions continues to grow so does demand for these minerals. Controlling an estimated 95-97% of all rare earth minerals, China has nearly total say over their distribution and has elected to increasingly restrict access to the domestic market through tight export quotas. For the moment this means that American electronics companies find it more expedient to base their manufacturing in China and thereby skirt export quotas. In the face of a potential rare earths shortage, the United States has already lodged a complaint about China's rare earth trade policies with the World Trade Organization.

Do you think growing attention and resistance to China's domination of the rare earth minerals market will alter the growth of the country's manufacturing sector? Or do you think that this is only one small piece of the Chinese business package?


About the Author
Ashton Adams was an intern at the IRC during the summer of 2012. This post was republished from an article Ashton originally wrote for the IRC blog on May 21, 2012. 

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Member Spotlight: Ethnic Enrichment Commission

Posted By IRC, Monday, May 6, 2019

The Ethnic Enrichment Commission (EEC) was established in 1976 to focus public attention to the rich cultural heritage and diversity of the Kansas City area. Today, the EEC continues to foster and encourage understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity by celebrating ethnic identity through programs and events such as the Ethnic Enrichment Festival, the Diplomatic Ball, the American Royal Parade, Brookside Parade, as well as various outreach opportunities throughout the area.

The EEC outreach program, the foundation of the EEC, aims to stay current by participating in school presentations, festivals, civic organizations, and business venues throughout the Kansas City area. The outreach program committee works as a communication avenue between the community and the EEC. This presents new and diverse ideas from the members of the community, which helps shape proposed event ideas, the feasibility, and availability of member participation.

The Ethnic Enrichment Festival is one of the largest events of the EEC and is put on for the community by the community, with hundreds of volunteers from over 66 countries and ethnic groups coming together to showcase their heritage and cultures to the Kansas City area. Jim Wilson is the manager of the Ethnic Enrichment Festival, which is hosting the 40th annual festival on August 16-18, 2019. Jim is a proud husband and father of three that took his interest in different cultures towards his education. It was his curiosity that took him to Turkey for a semester abroad in high school and later to Norway for a semester in college. This experience grew his interest which translated to numerous trips overseas, including Malaysia and Indonesia.

To learn more or get involved with the EEC or the Ethnic Enrichment Festival, visit



The IRC spotlights our members and their diverse work and interests in the international space. To learn more or to indicate interest in being spotlighted in an upcoming post, please visit:

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Member Spotlight: Russian Heritage Society

Posted By IRC, Monday, April 29, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Russian Heritage Society began as a club in 2004 and later became the organization it is today when founder and current president Jane Romanova-Hrenchir moved to the United States and became the official organizer in 2005. The group began out of a desire for Russian speakers living in the United States to have a place of community where they could connect with their culture. It has grown to include anyone interested in Russian culture and language.

This cultural group hosts a wide range of events throughout the year that are geared toward honoring the many Russian traditions and holidays. They host an annual Christmas program near the end of December or beginning of January for children, which consists of performances and sweet treats such as traditional Russian candy. Other events include picnics and potlucks, which may include a program with live music from local or even globally known bands. These picnics are often very lively with the many people who attend and the music and singing. The Russian Heritage Society often partners with the Russian Orthodox Church to celebrate Easter or other significant religious holidays as well and also celebrates Victory Day, a celebration of the end of World War II.

The society enjoys giving back to its community in multiple ways. One way is through visiting elderly individuals living in facilities in Kansas City. During their visits, the members share traditional music with the residents and even celebrate their birthdays and generally try to create meaningful connections with a community that often feels alone.

Another way that the organization gives back is through assisting orphanages in Kazan, Russia. The president of the organization, Jane, saw a Facebook post online about a local Russian orphanage that was having troubles financially. The orphanage was given only enough to sustain themselves, but nothing extra to allow more flexibility to improve the building or gather enough resources for all of the children. Jane was very stirred by this story and rallied the Russian Heritage Society to seek out and raise donations for this orphanage and another one in a more remote location that has even less access to support. The organization raised about $1,000 in addition to securing medical supplies from a generous Kansas City donor in order to support these orphanages. In 2015, Jane was able to visit the orphanage in Kazan and present their donations. She and a group of interested individuals returned in 2018 for a second round of donations and assistance to the orphanage. The Russian Heritage Society plans to continue this type of support to contribute to the well-being of their home country.

In addition to these many great ventures, the Russian Heritage Society works closely with the Russian Consulate in Houston and hosts a range of language courses for those interested in learning the Russian language or continuing practice with the language. They hope to continue expanding the language programs to include more cultural events and even field trips. In regard to the language courses, programs, and general interest, Jane commented, “...we are extremely inclusive to the people who are from America, from any other country, who have been learning the Russian language. And that has been another surprise for me, personally, because I just did not expect that such a large population of Americans are interested in Russian language.” She is overjoyed by the growing enthusiasm for the Russian language as well as the culture of the country. The Russian Heritage Society loves the opportunity to share their culture and traditions with the Kansas City community and looks forward to further partnership with the International Relations Council in order to educate the community about Russia, its culture, values, and heritage.

If you are interested in learning more about the Russian Heritage Society or viewing their upcoming events, please feel free to visit their website at Jane Romanova-Hrenchir is more than willing to speak with you and help you get connected with the organization, whether that is through attending language courses, volunteering at events, or simply joining hundreds of other individuals interested in learning more about Russian culture.



The IRC spotlights our members and their diverse work and interests in the international space. To learn more or to indicate interest in being spotlighted in an upcoming post, please visit:

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Book Review: The World Is Flat

Posted By IRC, Monday, April 22, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman is a classic book describing how the world economy has reached a new era of equality like never before, creating a level playing field. Friedman also describes how the United States and Europe are unprepared f

or the coming rise of China, India, and other previously disregarded countries. The book appeared in shelves in 2005 and could only account for so much.


The biggest flaw with the theory is that it does not account for the nationalistic backlash against globalism that has become more and more active in trying to restrict the boundaries again. Nationalistic tariffs, and border and immigration disputes have taken the limelight in more and more western countries in an effort to slow the tide; and, based off of recent performance in elections in the European Union, United States Presidential Election and Brexit, this movement has gained some traction. Friedman underestimates the power of the backlashagainst globalism, which he portends as something naysayers could not even try to touch.


Friedman’s theory of conflict prevention -- that if there are corporations operating on both sides of a border then the conflict will not occur due to economic backlash -- has a few flaws. Some countries (such as North Korea) have refused foreign corporations and the shared economic ties of Ukraine and Russia did not stop the Crimea crisis, nor did it stop the war between the Houthi and Saudis. Strong nationalism was unable to be stopped by economic ties, especially between a weaker and stronger country.


Friedman does get a lot of the multipolar ideas correct, he accurately depicts the rise of China and India respectively, and the world truly has become a more even playing field for companies and manufacturing. Made-in-the-U.S. has failed for the most part and the U.S. was unprepared for the rise of China, and many U.S. jobs moved to manufacturing in other countries.


In finality, the book is an engaging read and a good look into forward thinkers in the early 2000s in economic and international matters.

About the Author
Audun Sundeen is a student at Macalaster College studying Linguistics and International Studies.

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International Collaboration

Posted By IRC, Monday, April 15, 2019

With so many things causing division in the world today, where can we look to find unity, cooperation, and progress? For starters, we can look to the science field. On April 10, 2019, astronomers and astrophysicists released the first picture of a black hole. This is an amazing feat that could not have been done by one country on its own.

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) consists of eight telescopes across the globe that were each used to capture pictures of a black hole 55 million light-years away within the Messier 87 galaxy in order to create one cohesive image. According the program website (see previous link), “The EHT collaboration involves more than 200 researchers from Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America.” Such an incredibly large undertaking and accomplishment requires coordination and cooperation that isn’t often broadcasted and publicized.

Think back on the Space Race of the 1950s and 1960s, a time of intense competition between countries. This was a time when space exploration was just beginning to come to the forefront of science and discovery. At the heart of it, however, it seemed to be motivated by conflict and a need to be the “number one” country, essentially to gain power. We have come a long way in terms of working together for the progress of humanity, as opposed to the individualized thinking that sometimes clouds potential opportunity for advancement, often advancement that would benefit more than one country and its people.

Nowadays, we have projects like the Event Horizon Telescope that show the benefit of working together as a species to make discoveries not known to man before this point. Those in the field of space exploration and their contribution to international cooperation doesn’t stop there. The International Space Station, for example, is a monumental ongoing project of collaboration that has been visited by over 18 countries. This field seems to see the need for international inclusion and involvement in order for progress to take place.

Perhaps other areas can use the space exploration field as an example of how international collaboration can be done successfully and productively. They have not only shown how to be successful, but also how we can overcome past power struggles throughout history. Although we can’t deny history, we as a people do not necessarily need to follow the past patterns and history does not need to repeat itself if it can be improved. We can work together to continue advancing our knowledge and reaching our potential as a collective unit rather than as individuals, even on a global scale.


About the Author

Camille Meeks is a senior at UMKC and currently serves as a community intern with the IRC. 

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Kansas City and the UNESCO Creative City Network: Music and Culture for Sustainable Urban Development

Posted By IRC, Monday, April 8, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, April 9, 2019

In November 2017, the City of Kansas City, Missouri joined the Creative Cities Network of the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as the first and only City of Music in the United States.

Kansas City joins eight other U.S. Creative Cities, including Austin, Detroit, Iowa City, Paducah, San Antonio, Santa Fe, Seattle, and Tucson.

Members of the UNESCO Creative City Network (UCCN) include 180 cities around the world in 72 different countries. The mission of the Creative City Network is to leverage culture and creativity for sustainable communities.

The Creative Cities Network is a global coalition of mayors and cities focused on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the U.N. in 2015.

Upon recognition of Kansas City’s designation, Chris Hegadorn of the United States Mission to UNESCO wrote a congratulatory letter to Mayor Sly James stating:

The U.S. Delegation to UNESCO in Paris is extremely proud to now have nine cities representing American culture and art within this elite group. I am sure that you and your entire city are proud of your accomplishments and well aware of the direct, positive economic benefits of such international distinctions.

Cultural advocate Anita Dixon led the effort to complete and submit Kansas City’s application.

Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner helped to garner support within City Hall for the UCCN application to build international awareness of Kansas City as a tourism destination. Given the Creative Cities Network focus on Sustainable Development, my contribution focused on the role of cultural heritage as critical assets for sustainable neighborhood development.

Through my research and teaching in the UMKC Urban Planning and Design Program in the Department of Architecture, Urban Planning and Design, I supported the application to join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

The application built on 10 years of research on the role of cultural heritage for neighborhood revitalization. The inclusion of the Wendell Phillips neighborhood association and the UMKC Center for Neighborhoods helped to focus the UCCN City of Music application on a grassroots approach.

As downtown redevelopment is nearing completion, it is important for reinvestment to shift focus toward Kansas City’s historic neighborhoods and zones of culture. Ethnic neighborhoods throughout the city and diverse historic landmarks provide an important resource for enhanced neighborhood tourism and sustainable business development. This redevelopment process must be participatory and equitable. It must benefit the historic urban neighborhoods and residents without displacement.

International Partnerships: Building peace through music

Kansas City has already begun to have a significant impact on the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as an active participant. Attendance at the annual meeting is a requirement of membership. In June 2018, a Kansas City delegation attended the Annual Meeting in Krakow
Poland (City of Literature) and Katowice, Poland (City of Music).

The conference provided a great opportunity to promote the City of Kansas City Missouri and to learn more about how the UCCN functions. At the meeting, the City was officially inducted into UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Over 350 delegates from 160 cities around the world
attended the meeting sharing best practices and planning for future partnerships.

In the fall of 2018, the Kansas City partnered with San Cristobal del las Casas, Mexico (City of Crafts and Folk Art) to participate in a true cultural exchange. Kansas City musicians including Lee Langston, Odell Talley, Bryan Alford and Bukeka Blakemore traveled to Mexico to work with local musicians as part of a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival.

The band performed African American gospel songs with a local choir and orchestra while also learning about local culture. This cultural exchange allowed both cities to understand better our shared cultural experiences and the impact of African music and on the Americas.

Next Steps: Building a Sustainable City
Building a truly sustainable city requires attention to environmental health, social justice and economic growth. Culture and creativity are vital tools for these efforts to achieve progress on sustainable development.

The UNESCO Creative City of Music designation for Kansas City is not simply an award – it is a membership that requires sustained commitment to achieve a more just, equitable and inclusive community. As a UNESCO City of Music, Kansas City has the unique opportunity for greater leadership and recognition as a city that prioritizes the arts, culture and creativity for all neighborhoods.



About the Author
Jacob A. Wagner, PhD is a member of the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He is the co-founder of the UMKC Center for Neighborhoods with Senator Shalonn Kiki Curls. His work focuses on the revitalization of urban neighborhoods in Kansas City and New Orleans. He is currently developing research on planning for music cities.

PHOTO CREDIT: San Cristobal Creative City (2018)

UNESCO Creative Cities Network
Cities of Music
Kansas City – City of Music

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Book Review: Bioviolence: Preventing Biological Terror and Crime

Posted By IRC, Monday, April 1, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Barry Kellman’s Bioviolence: Preventing Biological Terror and Crime excellently describes the growing threat of biological warfare as a form of terrorism. Kellman begins by giving a definition of bioviolence: "the use of an active ingredient to cause mass harm.” The author then lists the most common agents used in acts of bioterrorism: smallpox, anthrax, influenza, Ebola, and other toxins used in agro violence. Additionally, the author examines the threat bioviolence has had prior to and after the tragedies of September 11th.

During the Cold War the United States and the Soviet Union collected strands of the small pox virus. After small pox was nearly eradicated, both nations began stock piling vials of the virus. In 1992, the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo staged a medical mission to Zaire to cultivate Ebola in order to weaponize it back in Japan. And, after 9/11/2001, groups mailed envelopes full of anthrax to political figures in Washington. Throughout his text, Kellman draws parallels between each event while stating the successes and failures of each method attempted. While

Though Kellman does not cite Kansas City as a hot bed of biological terror, the threat of bioviolence lurks throughout the world. Kansas City houses a Federal Reserve, a field office for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is home to the National World War I Museum and Memorial, which make it a possible location to target aspects of the United States government.

In addition to discussions of biological violence, the book spends time examining ways to prevent these acts of terror. Kellman suggests global coalitions to end bioterror, more scientific research to find cures to these diseases, and microbial surveillance to both prevent and discourage terrorist behavior.

Kellman currently instructs as a Professor at the DePaul University School of Law. He teaches International Environmental Justice and the Law of Antiterrorism. He was awarded as the 2014 Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Public International Law at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute at the Lund University in Sweden. The U.S Departments of State, Defense, Energy and Homeland Security often consult professor Kellman for his expertise on biological violence.

About the Author
Missy Rosenthal is a student at Tulane University in New Orleans with interests in Political Science and Public Health.

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Where is the Line For Voluntourism?

Posted By IRC, Monday, March 25, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Audrey Hepburn’s films and her remarkable work for UNICEF made her my number one idol throughout adolescence. As an avid lover of traveling and a natural born empath, my desire to visit foreign countries with an interest in aiding humanity came naturally. I grew up watching all the heartbreaking commercials with images of poverty and hunger- stricken children fighting for their lives, “but with a small donation, problems could be instantly resolved.” No one was safe from the guilt-inducing effects of these advertisements which claimed quick-fix solutions to "Third World" problems.

A similar concept was introduced to me during college, called voluntourism. Voluntourism is the act of volunteering while visiting a foreign country. The idea sprang about back in the 1970s with study abroad programs but was even more widely spread in the 1990s. The introduction came from two young recruiters in a massive lecture hall, who jumped on a table in front of nearly 500 students displaying their enthusiasm for the program. They touted, elephant rides, swimming with the dolphins, experiencing a world of new culture, and working closely with impoverished communities.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intrigued by the idea of traveling to a new place and doing good for others. After class, I picked up a flyer and was surprised to discover that in order to volunteer, you must pay a fee in addition to fronting the cost of a plane ticket. Unsure whether I could even afford to volunteer, I decided to study abroad instead.

Although it wasn’t the right timing then, I still have an interest in one day volunteering outside of the United States. When I took my first Introduction to Global and International Studies course I found out just how much controversy surrounds this topic. My professor discussed the potential harm caused by the voluntourism industry from which I gained a new perspective on the topic.

In some situations, volunteers are only visiting the country for a week at a time. The work that is required is sometimes manual labor, such as building houses, schools, etc: Projects and skills in which the volunteers have little to no previous training. Critics of voluntourism say that positions are often taken from the locals workers in order to support the wealthy westerners traveling to the country.

Sometimes, those who work with orphans end up doing more harm to children’s mental health by leaving them feeling abandoned as the short trip quickly comes to an end. There have also been reports that some of the orphanages people volunteer at are made up of children who are kidnapped from their parents in order to keep these facilities active for Western voluntourism.

People believe voluntourism can sometimes be surface level and doesn’t force volunteers to look at the bigger causes of crisis in communities. The voluntourism industry has been seen as contributing to the notion that continents like Africa need saving by Westerners.

Fortunately, not all are naysayers of voluntourism. These supporters note that there is a large portion of the population that have a genuine interest in helping others and to be able to travel in the process. Who can blame them? Immersing oneself into a completely new culture can be perspective changing and stimulating. Not to mention some of these voluntourism programs end up being a huge economic support for some of these communities.

It’s understandable that there are conflicting views on this topic. So where’s the line when it comes to assisting these struggling communities? I think it's wherever there are projects that are sustainable with lasting effects. Another question to ask is, how does this program’s impact outlast the invdividual trip?

Perhaps it’s as simple as taking a genuine interest in the country you’d like to help out. My own approach would be to thoroughly investigate some of the actual problems the communities are facing as well as background information on the voluntourism companies, then taking that information and deciding who will really be benefiting from your donation of time and money.


About the Author
Olivia Schmidt is a senior at the University of Kansas studying Journalism with a minor in Global and International Studies. She currently serves as the IRC's Audio & Video Production Intern. 

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