Natalie Jesionka on Shin Fujiyama Podcast: Volunteering | NGOs | Social Entrepreneurship | Orphanages

Natalie Jesionka

In this episode, Natalie Jesionka and I discuss volunteer travel and current trends in the NGO industry. Some of the questions asked during the episode:

  • Does a volunteer’s intent matter?
  • Should an NGO ever fire a volunteer who is there to help?
  • Should volunteers take photos during their trips abroad?
  • Should vulnerable children grow up with distant relatives or in orphanages?

Natalie is a lecturer, reporter, and human rights advocate. Natalie is the founder of the Prizm Project, the first human rights education organization for young women. She has researched human trafficking, the arms trade, and women in conflict throughout Asia.

She is also the Editor of Shatter the Looking Glass, a human rights and ethical travel publication examining the complexity of moving across borders in the modern world. She is an Advisory Board Member of Giving Way and served on the Board of Directors of Amnesty International USA. She is currently a sociology professor at Rutgers University.

Natalie and I originally met in Thailand in 2010 where she was a Fulbright Scholar.

Show Links

Show Notes & Summary

  • “Voluntourism”
  • Be wary of third party organizations that match you with volunteer opportunities for a large fee
  • Not every volunteer opportunity may turn out to be as great as promised in their marketing material
  • Volunteers need to set realistic goals instead trying to change the world in a short amount of time
  • Volunteers may go home with more questions than answers
  • Ethical practices for taking photos while volunteering
  • What to do as a volunteer when you make a mistake that causes a misunderstanding or unintended consequences
  • Why mentorship is important in the volunteer industry
  • Why energy slamming and insulting volunteers who make mistakes should be redirected
  • “We need to start helping each other instead of bringing each other down.”
  • The intent of the volunteering isn’t always of altruism, but is that a bad thing if the end product
  • Let’s stop with the charades, volunteering is a lot about our own personal development and ourselves
  • Natalie Jesionka challenges young people to consider starting a social business instead of a traditional nonprofit organization
  • She talks about the sense of entitlement that volunteers get even though the skills they gain may not be as relevant for jobs back at home
  • What to do when a volunteer is acting out. Should the NGO fire him or her?
  • What should a volunteer do if he or she finds out that the NGO they’re working for is corrupt?
  • The importance of having tact as a volunteer when confronted with complicated situations
  • Experteering = Volunteering + Expertise
  • Natalie Jesionka responds to recent criticisms of volunteer travel
  • Some people think that volunteering abroad carries a colonial essence
  • How to respond to criticism about your organization
  • How I feel about the orphanage vs. family reunification debate regarding orphaned and abandoned children