One of the primary goals of Unearth the World is to improve the international volunteer travel space. For this reason, we have chosen to be financially transparent and thoughtful about our mutually beneficial international partnerships. We have also opted to engage our travelers in a global service-learning (GSL) training curriculum prior to each experience.
When I first founded Unearth the World, I had a lot to learn about the difference between international volunteering and international service-learning. I eventually came to understand that service-learning focuses on structured learning about global contexts and involves critical reflection. Whereas volunteering alone does not necessarily promote learning. While most other third party volunteer travel organizations do not provide GSL as part of their program, I view it as a vital part of becoming a global citizen.
Luckily, I am not the only person who is thinking about service-learning and GSL. Hundreds of individuals and universities focus on GSL on a daily basis. In fact, there is even a national, peer-reviewed journal – the Michigan Journal of Community Service-Learning (MJCSL)– that is focused on academic service learning for college and university faculty and administrators.
This January, the MJCSL published a special section on GSL called the Future Directions Project. The goal of this project is to advance the conversation about the future of service learning, form an inclusive community around service-learning, and improve upon what is currently being done in the space.
The Future Directions Project brings together thought leaders, academics, and practitioners (like Unearth the World!) from around the globe to discuss ways to make GSL better. Each contributor to this project was given the opportunity to write a thought piece about what they believe needs to happen to continue to improve GSL.
I am honored to say that I was given the opportunity to contribute to this meaningful initiative. I began my engagement by writing a piece entitled “Deepening Service Abroad: A Call for Reciprocal Partnerships and Ongoing Support”. In this article, I call for a deepened role of community partners in the international service-learning space and an improvement upon post-trip curricula for travelers. I believe that these are two keys to ensuring that GSL continues to grow and thrive.
I would love for you to check out my article and provide feedback! (The full text can be found HERE.)
More importantly, I would also love to hear from you! – What do you think needs to be done to improve global service-learning and community engagement? What do universities, companies and individuals need to be thinking about to ensure that international volunteering is done in a meaningful way? Message me or comment on the piece to begin the conversation! And HAPPY TRAVELING!!