The Essential Guide to Volunteering Abroad

Learning Service offers a powerful new approach that invites volunteers to learn from host communities before trying to ‘help’ them. It’s also a thoughtful critique of the sinister side of volunteer travel; a guide for turning good intentions into effective results; and essential advice on how to make the most of your experience.

Volunteering overseas is life changing, and getting and giving the most from it requires an experienced partner. Learning Service is that partner, as the authors offer their combined lifetimes of accumulated knowledge. Gain insight and confidence for an adventure more rewarding than you'd ever imagined.

Frances Moore Lappé  Author of 19 books including Diet for a Small Planet

If you are among the growing number of today's travelers eager to give back in a positive way to the people and places you visit, then read this book now. The authors provide a profound understanding of what it takes to have a meaningful volunteer experience abroad with important insights that will also help guide you on a lifelong journey to make the world a better place.

Costas Christ  Editor-at-Large and Senior Advisor, National Geographic Travel

Growing up in Nepal I witnessed the upsurge of volunteer tourism, noticing the mismatch between what the volunteers thought they were doing and the actual impact of their actions. I had always wished that there was a way to call them out on this and help volunteers understand the complexity of the issues they were engaging in, and also transform what they were doing for the better. Reading this book I saw my wish had come true. I hope it lands into the hands of every single person who wants to do 'service' to the world, as it will have a profound impact on the way they choose to do it.

Rishi Bhandari  Volunteer Host and Educational Travel Guide

Over the last few decades, international volunteering has grown in popularity, accessibility, and complexity. Learning Service explores the challenges for the sector, tackling the ethics and impact of international volunteering while simultaneously offering one simple message: if you want to help, you have to be willing to learn. It is packed with real-life stories that are in turn engaging and entertaining, as well as giving pause for thought. Learning Service's core message seamlessly aligns with VSO's People First theory of change, developed through six decades of experience in this field. This is recommended reading for all those considering volunteering in a developing country.

Philip Goodwin  CEO of Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO)

Learning Service is a must read for anyone considering volunteer tourism. Whether you are a would-be volunteer or an organization sending volunteer tourists abroad, this wise book gives clear warnings about the manifold and serious mistakes being made through insensitivity to outright corruption. The authors use their own years of trial and error as well as a deep understanding of current research to guide us to a humane and deeply-satisfying approach to helping ourselves learn through service.

Elizabeth Becker:   Author of Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism

This is an extraordinary contribution to the conversation on what effective volunteer service looks like, and how a learning service approach enriches volunteers and communities in equal measure. This book brings together theory, practice, and the wisdom of experience to map the landscape of challenges and opportunities you'll face before you leave, when you arrive, and after you return home. A manifesto for doing good well, this is an indispensable book for anyone volunteering overseas.

Noam Chomsky  Philosopher, historian, social critic, author and activist

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About The Book

This year, over ten million people will go abroad, eager to find the perfect blend of adventure and altruism. Volunteer travel can help you find your place in the world–and find out what you’re made of. So why do so many international volunteer programs fail to make an impact? Why do some do more harm than good?

Learning Service offers a powerful new approach that invites volunteers to learn from host communities before trying to ‘help’ them. It’s also a thoughtful critique of the sinister side of volunteer travel; a guide for turning good intentions into effective results; and essential advice on how to make the most of your experience.

This book is for volunteers and educators alike. If you’re wondering if volunteer travel is right for you; if you’re getting on the plane tomorrow; or if you’re trying to adjust to life as a returned volunteer–this is the book you need in your bag.

About The Authors

Claire Bennett

Claire Bennett

Claire Bennett owns a training company in Nepal, works for US-based global citizenship education company Where There Be Dragons and freelances as a development education consultant.

Daniela Papi-Thornton

Daniela Papi-Thornton

Daniela Papi-Thornton’s interest in volunteer travel began with her work in Cambodia as the founder of PEPY Tours, and she became an international advocate for a learning-first approach to the volunteering movement.

Zahara Heckscher

Zahara Heckscher

Zahara Heckscher lived a life dedicated to social justice, tirelessly campaigning on a wide range of social issues from ending apartheid in South Africa to ensuring cancer patients in the US have access to life-saving medicines.

Joseph Collins

Joseph Collins

Joseph Collins is co-founder of the Institute for Food and Development Policy; a Guggenheim Fellow recognized for his work on issues of inequitable development; and the author of Food First, World Hunger and many other titles in the sector.

Claire, Daniela and Jospeh are available for interviews and features: Contact: [email protected]

Buy The Book

This year, over ten million people will go abroad, eager to find the perfect blend of adventure and altruism. Volunteer travel can help you find your place in the world–and find out what you’re made of. So why do so many international volunteer programs fail to make an impact? Why do some do more harm than good?

US

Rest of the World