Service learning and mission trips are a becoming a huge part of young people’s lives in both church and academic settings. This opportunities can be wonderful experiences of learning, traveling, meeting new people and cultures, and seeing things in a new dimension. However, Greg and Margaret have witnessed organizations and programs avoid hard issues, like privilege, racism, and responsibility. We are concerned that these programs, although well intentioned, often result in the host communities being hurt, fragmented and humiliated and the visiting groups just feeling good before returning to their normal lives unchanged by the experience.
Instead, we would like to see robust service programs that are focused on building authentic relationship that are mutually beneficial. We want to see groups reflecting deeply on issues of privilege and engaging communities not simply by providing labor or goods (building homes or handing out food) but listening deeply and acknowledging that every real relationship is reciprocal.
Throughout our study, we have done academic research and conducted a series of interviews with people from across the country. With this ongoing research, we are developing curriculum for a half-day workshop for leaders of civic engagement, service learning and mission trips on how to approach topics, like racism, privilege, and responsibility.
We hope that group leaders and participants use these resources as they contemplate their own service opportunities. We are also available to answer any questions and consult over the phone or Skype with group leaders. Also we are able to lead one day workshops for groups.