The Ethics of ‘Doing Good’ via Global Dimension

Claire Bennett reflects on the ethics of students volunteering abroad – what steps can young people take to ensure they find a responsible placement with positive outcomes?


Claire has worked in global education for the last 10 years. She worked on the Global Youth Action project in collaboration with Think Global and worked with teachers to embed a global dimension to the classroom. Now living in Asia, she is working with advocacy group Learning Service.


For many teachers, global citizenship education is not something we see as ending at the walls of the classroom. Whilst it is important for students to intellectually explore the issues facing our interdependent world, and reflect on connections between themselves and others across the globe, the aim of this kind of learning is that awareness translates into action. That is, learning outcomes can be measured in changing behaviour in everyday life – such as helping out the new student in the classroom or turning down the heating at home – or the larger actions it inspires – such as a student-led campaign or service projects.


Many schools encourage students to become active in their communities, some even weaving local volunteering into their curriculum. A growing way for young people who are passionate about changing the world to engage in global citizenship education is for them to take this volunteering further afield, to go abroad and offer direct ‘help’ in addressing global issues such as poverty. Your school might already have, or be considering, a partnership with a volunteer travel company offering trips for school groups.


Continue reading on Global Dimension!

10 Years on From DiA and I’m Still Learning… via Development in Action

Ten years on from volunteering with Development in Action Mandarin Bennet is still passionate about ensuring that international volunteering has a lasting impact and ethical underpinning. Here writes about what she has learnt (and continues to learn) since her time with DiA. 


I became the UK coordinator for Development in Action nearly a decade ago. What drew me to DiA was that its philosophy on volunteering and development was exactly in line with what I had learned experientially after a year volunteering in Nepal.


I volunteered with a rural development organization straight after I graduated from university. Every time I thought I could offer a solution or way of contributing, I would realize that it wasn’t so simple. In fact, the more I looked into the root causes of the problems faced in Nepal, the more I discovered how closely interlinked they were with issues back in the UK. I remember thinking that whatever small contribution my presence could offer to a remote Nepali community, I would be able to have a more powerful impact on the same issues as an activist and educator in my own country.


Continue reading on the Development in Action blog!

“I really believe that an open debate about how we can best volunteer is the only productive way of finding out what does and doesn’t work in the voluntary sector.”

As you can probably tell our Learning Service team is dedicated to providing insightful resources to help you make informed decisions when you travel and volunteer. We recently began releasing a series of videos full of tips for how to make the most of your time abroad and enlisted some like-minded individuals to help us spread the word.


Our Learning Service Ambassador team spans the globe and represents four different continents! Eleanor, today’s featured ambassador, currently lives and works in Cambodia and lucky for us, took some time to share about her own volunteer experiences and why she believes in the Learning Service movement.


Learning Service: Tell me about any past volunteering experience.


Eleanor: I have volunteered at home and overseas.  As a student at Durham I volunteered for Amnesty International and at University College London I was a member of the Student Human Rights Project. I have also done voluntary social media work for a UK based charity called the Social Breakfast. In Cambodia I volunteered as a teacher for Conversations with Foreigners and as a monitor on the Khmer Rouge Tribunal with the Asian International Justice Initiative.


LS: What made you interested in volunteering?


E: I was interested in volunteering because it enabled me to support causes that I am passionate about.  I was also keen to do something useful with the skills that I have.


LS: How did your past volunteering experience influence your decision to support the Learning Service movement?


E: As a volunteer you want to know that the work you do is of actual benefit to a certain cause. I was keen to support the Learning Service movement because by informing people of the different issues around volunteer travel we can help them choose programmes where they can achieve this.


LS: How do you hope Learning Service will influence the volunteer community?


E: I hope that Learning Service will influence the volunteer community by not only helping people identify how they can volunteer responsibly but also open up the conversation about international volunteering as a whole. I really believe that an open debate about how we can best volunteer is the only productive way of finding out what does and doesn’t work in the voluntary sector.


LS: Do you have any fun volunteer stories you’d like to share?


E: I’ve enjoyed all the volunteering that I’ve done but singing songs with my Khmer students in Phnom Penh about tops the list!


LS: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go (and why)?


E: I would love to visit Bhutan. It’d be interesting to learn about Bhutanese society given the importance they place on gross national happiness rather than GDP. The mountainous landscape looks wonderful too!


LS: Any lessons you learned from your past volunteer experiences?


E: I think the most important lesson I’ve learnt when volunteering is to persevere, it will be worth it in the end! This is particularly relevant to volunteering overseas where the challenge of both adapting to a new culture and missing your family and friends back home can make it difficult sometimes.


Volunteer Responsibly via Comhlamh

Volunteering abroad has become a craze, particularly for college students, over the last ten years. With a globalizing world, young people in Ireland are feeling more and more of a responsibility to serve in the majority world.


College students from all over the country have packed their bags and jetted off to faraway countries for an intercultural volunteering experience. Damien MacThomáis is one of these students. Here he reports on his experiences with Learning Service.


Continue reading on the Comhlamh blog!

Rethinking Volunteer Travel via PEPY

Thursday, January 2014
by Amy McLoughlin


International volunteering has grown in popularity, and with so many people going abroad to “serve”, we worry that we are often forgetting a really important step: we have to learn before we can help. If we don’t research our options thoroughly, understand the context and culture of the communities we visit, and ensure that our skills and experience match the needs, volunteering can be wasteful, and at worst, cause a lot of harm.


PEPY, and our friends at the Learning Service, are promoting a movement of learning, designed to better prepare young people about to travel abroad for the first time, and travelers of all ages looking to give back through their time, with the skills and mindsets they need to be of “service”, not just for a few weeks on a volunteer trip, but for the rest of their lives.


Read more on PEPY’s blog!