Video: Changing The World on Vacation

Today I wanted to point out an interesting documentary film, “Changing The World on Vacation: NGOs and The Politics of Compassion.”  Check out the trailer below.

CTW explores the “Volun-Tourism” industry, and the merger of adventure travel and humanitarian aid work.  Focusing on PEPY, a Cambodian based NGO doing very interesting educational development work, the documentary provides a fascinating overview of the incredible impact that a grassroots organization can have on a developing country, as well as some of the challenges and roadblocks that such groups face, especially in the political realm.

As a member of the LanguageCorps team, I found the documentary particularly relatable.  One of the best aspects Teaching English Abroad is the mutually beneficial nature of the experience.  Our teachers get to enjoy a unique adventure in another part of the world, while at the same helping people to acquire an important new skill, often in a disadvantaged community.  By helping people to Teach English in Cambodia and other developing regions, I believe that LanguageCorps is making a positive impact on the communities where our teachers work, as learning English is one of the simplest and most effective ways a person can break the poverty cycle.  Partially because of our work with organizations like the Cambodian Childrens Fund and New Day Cambodia and Cambodian ThreadsCambodia has always been particularly close to the heart of LanguageCorps, so it’s great to hear about other organizations that are doing good work in a region with such incredible potential.

For more information on “Changing The World on Vacation: NGOs and The Politics of Compassion” check out

EDITORS NOTE  7/26/12: Thoughts and reactions from Daniela Papi, one of the founders of PEPY, on some of the negative effects of short term volunteerism

About Steve Patton

Steve is a travel enthusiast that calls Boston home, though he spends as much time on the road as he does in any one place these days. He's part of the marketing team at LanguageCorps and a freelance writer, in between playing drums in various touring bands and trying to become a better photographer. Japan is next on his travel wish list!
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3 Responses to Video: Changing The World on Vacation

  1. Daniela Papi says:

    Hello Steve –

    Thanks for linking the CTW, the documentary about PEPY, the organization I helped to start in Cambodia. It is very difficult for me to know that that movie is flying around without discussions from us afterwards, as to be honest, 95% of what were doing in that video are not things I agree with anymore. I spent 6 years living in Cambodia and found that our work bringing short-term volunteers was actually very harmful at times, and so we changed the tour side of our offerings to development education tours – engaging travelers with the complexity of aid rather than trying to allow them to “fix” problems in a short visit.

    Daniela Kon, the film maker, filmed me in 2009 (3 yeas after that footage had been taken) with my reaction to the film, and my reaction now is even stronger. You can read some of the thoughts I posted about a this a while ago here:

    I hope the movie continues to get people to think and consider the impact of development work and volunteer travel – but not that it makes people think that what we were doing in the film was a good thing.

    Many thanks for engaging in this discussion!


  2. Daniela Papi says:

    Additionally, your readers might be interested in a TEDx talk I recently gave on some of the lessons we learned and why I think volunteer travel, at least the way it is largely being promoted now, can be very harmful to our next generation:

    At PEPY Tours, we are no longer promoting volunteering, but instead want people to learn more about the complexity of development work, get angry, get interested, and then change the way they give, travel, and live, rather than try to “help” for a few days or weeks before learning. We wrote more about this here:

    I hope you find some of these links interesting!

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