Service learning is the marriage of educational learning objectives with community service, the final outcome being one that assists in the meeting of societal needs. Progressive schools and communities have been collaborating on developing service learning opportunities for several years and have experienced great success with well designed and implemented programs. With an ever-growing emphasis on 21st Century Learning Skills, which include collaboration and teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving, among others, and all on a global scale, service learning, particularly through voluntourism, is experiencing a surge.
What exactly is voluntourism and how does it relate to service learning? Voluntourism combines one’s desire for travel and worldly experiences with their willingness to lend a helping hand and leave a positive impact on the communities that they visit even after their journey has ended. Voluntourism allows individuals and groups the opportunity to take their service learning beyond the borders of their own communities and have a global impact. Why not assist with reforestation efforts in Puerto Rico, or spend part of your time volunteering with an organization like Puerto Rico Rises?
The benefits of service learning through voluntourism are without end. For those studying language and culture, there is an opportunity to put their language skills to use, add local colloquialisms to their vernacular and experience culture first hand. Practicing language skills in an authentic situation, outside of the classroom setting, provides language learners with a renewed enthusiasm for their language study as well as an appreciation for the culture from which the language comes. Connecting with others in their native tongue is a unique experience that we should all strive to experience.
Service learning through voluntourism is often a transformative experience for travelers because they are interacting and working side by side with people that have different perspectives, backgrounds, experiences and opportunities than themselves. These interactions force individuals to examine their own biases, prejudices and thoughts about the world and are likely to lead to more open minded, tolerant and accepting world citizens. The impact of voluntourism is experienced not only in the communities where the work is performed but also by everyone that has had their horizons expanded through these efforts.
For many people, especially those still in pursuit of their education, service learning through voluntourism puts travel within reach, builds their leadership skills and allows them to experience the world all while giving back to a cause that is important to them.