International Volunteer Service: Good Intentions Are Not Enough
By Amanda Moore McBride and Eric Mlyn
The last decade has seen the proliferation of international volunteer programs and international service-learning courses offered by American colleges and universities. Such opportunities send undergraduate and graduate students abroad to work with local nonprofits and other community partners. Think of students building a health clinic on an alternative spring break, teaching English in remote villages, or holding babies in an orphanage.
We have followed and been a part of the growth of this pedagogical approach, building programs and researching their results. Our experience has made it clear that we need to better understand what exactly these volunteer activities are producing for the students and communities. The future of this field will be best served when practice is closely linked to research. As a field, service learning has made progress in this area, though much remains to be done so that the possible positive outcomes do not get lost despite its best intentions.