Archive | January, 2020

A Challenging Read – Guardian Article about “Voluntourism”

18 Jan

This article by the Guardian in 2018 hit me hard – challenging me to reflect on Campamento.

  • Are we – travelers, supporters, and I – “sustain[ing] practices and institutions that actually do harm“?
  • Is Campamento “about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege“?
  • “Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asunción” sounds horrific and is now closed. This was a Catholic institution. Could this happen to our Hogar? Is our Hogar like the more humane but “chaotic, impersonal and lacking stimulation” Hogar?
  • How about this description the reporter gave of her feelings after a summer of working at a home for boys in Detroit?

“I now understand that I did leave Rodrick with something: a sense of abandonment. Every single boy in that institution already had abandonment issues. If it was hard for me to leave these boys behind, how much harder was it for them to see me go? And the next adult who came for a few weeks? And the next one? They might have learned that there are people who love them and will take them on walks. But they also learned that these people always leave.

  • Is our Hogar spending “not much money […] on its most vulnerable, disabled residents, while a lot of investment has gone towards making the volunteer experience as comfortable as possible“?

On my first read of this article, I was reading it defensively – thinking “That’s not what we do.” “Our Hogar is not like that.” Then, I read it again with a more open mind.

Update 2022 – another article outlining two sides of voluntourism. Their suggestion to teach local English teachers is interesting!

Here are my thoughts. I’d love to hear yours.

Are we sustaining practices that actually do harm? The reality is we aren’t sustaining anything. The home does not exist to host Campamento. Campamento is a small, optional part of a comprehensive program that is the Hogar. The Sisters provide the foundation of the Hogar. Campamento (I hope) merely enhances the program that they design and run.

As for doing harm – I’ve seen the opposite. Many girls thrive at the family-like setting at the Hogar. (For those who don’t like it for whatever reason, they can return to their homes.) They get basics like safety, a home, food, school, tutoring (many of their parents are illiterate), values, self-esteem, chores, affection, and support from each other.

An old practice, not used any more, was to invite girls to camp before joining the Hogar, to see if she’d like it. One year a new girl came and she had a very tough exterior, was very skeptical of camp (pretty reasonable from a kid who’s never seen anything like the Hogar or experienced anything like camp.) She stuck with it though. Two days later, another new girl joined. The next girl’s response was to cry all day. I’ll never forget what girl #1, with her 2 days off experience told girl #2 “This place is not that bad. The women here are nice and they feed you three times a day.” Girl #2 wiped away her tears, then joined the game going on. Both girls thrived for a while at the home. Neither stayed through graduation.

The education piece is major, even if a girl leaves before graduation, she receives a much better education than she would have otherwise. Many continue their education, even after leaving the home. But it is harder without the support they get at the Hogar.

By “enhancing”, we run a 2 week summer camp with: Bible study themed “Women of Faith”, educational enrichment focusing on math and English, as well as crafts, games, songs, skits, and free time. Our focus is on self-confidence and self-esteem. Many well-off families send their kids to similar camps over the summer. We also work with the director of the hogar on the curriculum to make sure we’re a positive influence at the home.

Over the last 19 years, we’ve had a lot of positive feedback from the Sisters, the girls, and even the community. Here’s my two favorite: A new driver joined the home. At the end of camp, when he was bringing us back to the airport, he said “Many groups come to visit the girls, bringing donations or holding a party. I’ve only seen the girls cry when you leave.” The other is when Sister Fifi took the reins as director of the hogar soon after camp the previous year. She said that she was looking forward to camp and can’t believe it’s finally here. I asked her why, because summer is usually a break for her and camp is a ton of work for her! She said “Since I joined, all I heard was ‘at camp we do this, at camp we do that. The girls talk about camp all year long.” At the end of camp, she told us that she now knows why!

I hope each traveler gets a deep spiritual and personal experience at camp, as well as fun!

Campamento 2020 Kickoff Meeting – New Room

11 Jan

Tuesday, February 4, 7-9 PM, Church of Saint Edward Room 125
You are invited to join the Church of Saint Edward’s 18th Annual Mission this year. Support a social justice organization – the Teresa Toda Home, a home for very poor girls in Azua, Dominican Republic with a summer camp in July 2020.

This trip is for women over 18 and mother-daughter pairs for daughters over 14. We have openings from July 4-12 and July 11-19 for travelers interested in sharing a spiritual experience with young women and girls from another country.

Our camp theme is “Women of Faith”. We study bible stories, play music, make crafts, perform skits, and do other activities. We pray, exchange stories, share love, and spend time with the girls. Through the activities they learn English, enjoy crafts, and build self-esteem.

Each trip is deeply touching and spiritual. Special gifts you may share are patience with kids, crafting and beading talents, or your professional experience.

Is 2020 your year to follow the Pope’s lead on social justice, charity, adventure, spiritual experiences, fellowship, growth, and fun? If so, answer the call to travel with us this summer or help from Minnesota.

Please contact Ann McGuire at to RSVP to our kick-off meeting and take a look at this blog site.