Voluntourism: A Hand Up or a Handout? Part Deux

In a previous post I discussed my reaction to Hurricane Katrina and my desire to assist with the relief effort in some tangible way. After spending a couple of days in New Orleans, I traveled to a Habitat for Humanity worksite on the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain. 

My accommodations for the build were in a sheriff’s barracks on the outskirts of Slidell. I was the first to arrive and was greeted by a deputy who gave me the ten-cent tour:  gang showers, lounge, bunk rooms. His advice was to grab a top bunk away from the door.

Slidell

Goodbye, Soniat House. Hello, bunk beds.

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Voluntourism: A Hand Up or a Handout?

Philanthropic travel has significantly increased in popularity since my trip to Louisiana in 2006. Who benefits more from these programs – the tourist or the host?

Mardi Gras New Orleans

Reggie Bush and other float characters from Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World.

“Come on, Cher!”

Before I could object, I was pulled by the arm into the bar and marched up onto the stage. A harness was lowered over my head. It had a washboard attached that covered my chest.

“Une! Deux! Trois!”

The band launched into some rollicking zydeco and a pair of hands bearing spoons materialized in front of me. Rhythmically, vigorously, the spoons strummed my washboard.

Laissez les bon temps rouler. Continue reading