That’s the theory put forward in this provocative opinion piece by Globe and Mail columnist Judith Timson.

“Let’s face it,” she writes, “less-affluent kids simply can’t afford to have that global do-gooding experience, let alone drop it strategically onto their résumés for key impact in grad school or job applications.”

But there’s another side to it. These trips, organized by student volunteer agencies across North America and in Europe, are filled with the potential to not only offer helping hands in needy communities, but to change a young person’s direction in life.

At their most emotionally porous, open-hearted and idealistic, university students may well discover their calling abroad, or even develop a much-needed global vision. So if there was ever a time to, say, plop them in an HIV clinic in Kumasi, it’s now.

Her point?

Sure, the efficiency and efficacy of voluntourism (in terms of results for the recipient societies) may be up for debate, but there’s no arguing its impact on the volunteers. And that, Timson decides in the end, is a good thing.

Looking for a life-changing volunteering experience of your own?

Check out Brave New Traveler’s Complete Guide to Volunteer Tourism, and then swing over to Matador’s volunteering blog to find the opportunity that’s right for you.

Photo by Dave Bezaire and Susi Havens-Bezaire
(Creative Commons)