Community Service-Learning with Friendship Tours
"…...differences of all kinds are meaningless between children at play. Looking at our students here at the Vietnam Friendship Village, it's impossible to believe that all these lovely children are the descendants of enemies who once struggled to kill each other."
Alethea Tyner Paradis
History Teacher, Laguna Blanca School, 2005
Service is more than an activity; it’s a mindset, a relationship and a way of being in the world. Meaningful volunteer projects are collaborations between equals, an opportunity to learn and give while respecting the local integrity of the sponsoring organization.
It’s about solidarity and mutual benefit: not charity.
Our service-learning is conducted in collaboration with sustainable NGOs in the host country. We engage students in the process using a social-entrepreneurship lens: What problem can I help solve with my skills? What specific need can I help fulfill with my talents? We ask our partners and they invite our creative involvement accordingly.
Student volunteer projects assume various forms depending on the teacher-chaperone’s passions.
Direct Service: invites our students to contribute their skills and talents toward advancing a project or fulfilling a specific need. The projects are short-term, student-driven, and support local people towards continued self-sufficiency.
- An NGO needs a short promotional video about their work, and a team of student travelers shoots, edit, write and produces the piece.
- An orphanage requests American pen-pals to engage in an 8-week conversational commitment with their English-language learners via Skype.
- A home for children with Agent-Orange disabilities needs a website refresh and social media presence.
- An occupational therapy center for cluster-bomb victims needs new logos designed for awareness-campaign T-shirts.
Indirect Service: are fundraising or supplies-collection efforts which generate resources for organizations addressing a community problem.
- Students learn about the issue before and during their trip, and sponsor an event to raise funds and awareness in their own communities. Examples include: movie screenings, car-washes, T-shirt /bake sales, art installments, walk-a-thons, school-wide collections or supplies drives.
- Schools sometimes “adopt” an NGO partner for ongoing sponsorship and measure annual progress towards a specific goal: funding additional nurses on staff at a clinic, increasing the number of scholarship students at an after-school arts and music program, clearing cluster bombs from hectares of agricultural land.
Advocacy and Awareness: students are inspired share what they learned abroad with their communities at home, and work towards solving problems through political activism and civic engagement. Successful campaign examples:
- Create a “Say NO UXO!” club on campus to inspire help for cluster-bomb victims in Laos.
- Conduct writing campaigns to Congress imploring funding for Agent-Orange victims.
- Write a grant on behalf of an NGO serving genocide widows cooperatives in Rwanda.
- Interview land-mine survivors and produce public service announcement videos educating the community about the subterranean munitions problem in SE Asia.
- Organize a photography exhibit of girls successfully rescued from human trafficking
- Boycott businesses affiliated with war-profiteering.
- Write letters to the editor advocating the U.S. sign the chemical weapons ban treaty.
- Host a press-conference with local media.
- Invite war refugees to speak and share their stories on campus.
- Protest a proposed military action which will repeat the evident mistakes of history.
- Screen a documentary film advocating an end the economic embargo of Cuba.
Each trip involves direct cultural-exchange activities with local children. As a means of making a personal contribution, student travelers are asked to bring school / art supplies for play and educational activities with our young native friends.