Learning Service Book Update!

First, we’d like to give another BIG thanks to everyone who has supported (and continues to support) Learning Service and our book-writing project!


This past winter we were able to launch our 6-part video series on responsible travel and volunteering practices. We’ve also completed the writing for our book, and are deep in the editing stages. Claire and Daniela are in Cambodia right now, with a few other fantastic volunteers and seconded team members from PEPY Tours, editing away for the next two weeks. Zahara has dedicated most of the last few months to editing as well, and Joe continues to support the team with his extensive experience… We’re getting close!


The copies of the book in the current state that we have printed out are HUGE! We’re now cutting down material so we can get the book into a digestible and enjoyable read… And so we can get it into your hands as soon as possible!

Book Picture-01

This book has really been a test of global-connections – as of the four authors, few of us still have never met in person. We’re spread across 12 time zones, on three continents and in four cities: Katmandu, Santa Cruz, London, and Washington, DC. In the year plus that we have been working on this book, we’ve all gone through our own personal changes. Our team has held together through joys (Daniela’s wedding) and hard times (Zahara’s chemotherapy). Our ages range from thirties to sixties, and our experiences, skills, and personalities vary widely. We’re divided by two official versions of our common language (the Queen’s English and American English) and the linguistic, cultural, and technological differences rooted in our generational spread.


But we also believe that our differences have been an asset to the creation of a meaningful book. Joe contributed 50 years of experience in Latin America, Africa and Asia, as well as a depth of writing experience as the co-author of more than 20 books. Zahara brought in two decades of research on international volunteering. She also kept her fingers on the pulse of would-be readers in the US through workshops on college campuses, and her wide connections with networks of international volunteer organizations. Claire’s base in Katmandu and expertise in development education gave her a vital perspective on cultural issues involved in international volunteering. In addition, she coordinated the team, serving as our shepherd, and doing the hard work of weaving together our disparate drafts. Daniela is our connection to vital conversations about international volunteering in the UK and Europe, contributing the framework of Learning Service, and many of our core messages.


Though we are so spread out, with many of us working a number of jobs in addition to book writing, it is this idea that keeps us going through all the ups and downs – we share a passionate belief in the core concepts of Learning Service, and we believe that now is the time to share this concept with the world. Thank you for supporting us – we’ll keep on editing so we can get this book! It is our shared commitment to support would-be volunteers, to benefit communities where volunteers serve, and to help people rethink the field of international volunteering.


Many thanks for your continued support!


– The Learning Service Team

“No Selfies with Cute Babies!”

Everyday Ambassador is launching a new initiative known as The International Service Boot Camp. This initiative is the first of many upcoming webinar series that are co-branded with our resource partners.


To kick off our series, we’re giving you the inside scoop on the value of volunteering, responsible #selfies, and making the most of your summer. The details are below.


Presenters : Daniela Papi and Kate Otto


‘Know Before You Go’ Contest Winners!

Not too long ago we wrapped up our ‘Know Before You Go’ video contest. After the contest closed we randomly selected names from those who entered the contest for some awesome prizes donated by our sponsors, which included an assortment of Eagle Creek bags, KEEN shoes, and our grand prize: a three-day stay in Siem Reap, Cambodia.


Thanks again for participating and congratulations to the winners!


Final Winners

To get to know them better, we asked each of the winners to let us know why they think learning before serving is important, what they would like to see from Learning Service in the future, and to share any learning experiences they’ve had while volunteering abroad.

Why do you think learning before serving is important?


In my opinion, learning before serving is something that all volunteers should do. Before deciding what kind of volunteering work you want to join, you should be aware of all the polemics that are around that subject and the country you’re going to choose. This is the only way you can be sure that you’re helping a good cause and you’re not promoting something “suspicious”. – Inês Cunha


I think that you will get much more out of your experience if you are prepared. From knowledge about the country and a few words of the language, to sustainable practices within non-governmental organizations, being equipped with knowledge will enhance the self-awareness that you will gain through your work experience. – Rachel Owen


The best thing about learning before serving is knowing how to make the most of your time serving. – Todd Fass


Learning before service is important to avoid not only disappointment but also to make volunteering a mutually beneficial experience that does not perpetuate common stereotypes and perceptions of superiority on the side of the supposedly more “developed”.  – David Korenke


Service without learning is self-gratifying, empty work. It is in the learning and the relationships we build that we become better humans and truly embrace all humanity. – Kathy Millar


I think learning before serving is really important in order to better understand foreign culture, to make the most out of one’s own experience, and to provide the best possible help. – Janina Artmayer


What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from a volunteer experience?


My most important service lesson is that I don’t always know best or have all the answers. It was humbling to learn that there are multiple “correct” approaches to a challenge and that not all solutions work at all times. True service requires listening and learning. – Matthew Hughes


The biggest lesson I’ve learned from serving abroad is patience and participation. Even if it takes longer, you need local ideas, buy-in, and resources so best to include them early and be patient along the ride. – Eve Van Devender


The biggest lesson I’ve learned from volunteering (teaching English to refugees) is a greater understanding about the difficulties of coming to the United States as an immigrant or refugee, and what kind of resources would make the transition process easier. – Anna Lee White


What would you like to see from Learning Service in the future?


Work to partner with travel companies or industry leaders and come up with accepted best practices that can be adopted across the industry. I think it’s only a matter of time before the right people start to understand the lessons Learning Service is promoting. – Adam Vaught


Is “Voluntourism” Itself Being Exploited? via The Huffington Post

Voluntourism is under fire. I know, because I have been a part of pointing out theunintended negative consequences of our good intentions for some time. Recently, blogs about “the problem of little white girls and boys” and other rants about voluntourism are starting to get more and more popular. But maybe it’s time to look further into this criticism.


In a piece on his new Voluntourism Institute blog, David Clemmons recently released an article exploring the exploitation of voluntourism itself. It resonated with me, as over the last few months I have read a number of “anti-voluntourism” pieces that people have sent me thinking I’d love them, but instead they made me really worried that these arguments are moving off point.


David’s article was spurred in part by an ABC Australia Broadcast piece I was a part of, which they provocatively named “Is ‘voluntourism’ the new colonialism?” David might be surprised to know, I agree with him in large part: “voluntourism” is being wrongly blamed as the “culprit” here and in other similar pieces. In my opinion, it is the marketing of the most irresponsible volunteer programs, and additionally, our own egos, which are leading us astray, not any whole sector.


This week I read a piece a colleague had written that was denouncing “voluntourism” yet promoting “responsible volunteering.” Let’s dissect this. Is it the “tourism” part people have a problem with? If someone comes and volunteers for a week and then goes straight into a week-long tour of the country, does that act of tourism negate or further in some way the negative or positive impact they had during their volunteer time? Isn’t it less important that the person engaged in tourism activities, and more important to ask WHAT they did — both in their volunteer time as well as their travel — in order to be able to judge the impact of their work? I think we’d all agree it would be ridiculous to think that a volunteer can only have a positive impact if their volunteering does not happen directly before or after a ‘tourist experience’ — as if someone volunteers for a week, goes home for a while, and then takes a separate trip back as a “tourist” we could then praise their volunteering. So let’s explore this further.


Continue reading on the Huffington Post!

From Service Learning to Learning Service via SSIR

We often use “service learning” to describe volunteer programs and international volunteer travel, emphasizing learning through service—service that teaches life lessons that help both the traveler and the world. The profound lessons that international volunteering can bring is one of the main reasons that academic institutions are incorporating it—and sometimes requiring it—in coursework.


But the concept of service learning is outdated. We are firm believers in the power of international travel to help people gain experience, perspectives, and skills that can help them improve the world, but think that going on a trip billed as “serving others”—when the travelers themselves are often the ones who disproportionately benefit—can undermine these effects.


Globalization, mass communication, and ease of travel have brought about a new sense of global interconnectedness, often accompanied by an increased sense of responsibility. Traveling to a place that exposes people to the realities of poverty and other global issues can spark complex emotions and a desire to take action. In our research on volunteer travel, we found that the motivation behind international volunteering was overwhelmingly the desire to “help” or “give back.”


Continue reading on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog!

Is voluntourism the new colonialism? Interviews on ABC Radio National

Volunteer tourism, or ‘voluntourism’, is one of the fastest growing areas of the tourism industry. However new evidence suggests that it may be doing more harm than good in developing countries, as Kerry Stewart reports.


Earlier this week Daniela Papi was interviewed on Encounter – ABC Radio National along with other voices in the volunteer travel sector. You can listen to the full interview online.


Short on time? Read the accompanying article here.