Service learning is a great opportunity for students to get out, experience places, and interact with people they otherwise might never meet. It’s a time to both give and receive knowledge and different experiences with a wide array of individuals. However, what of the communities that students visit and volunteer in? Are students truly making a positive impact? For the most part, if the organization is doing its job right, both the communities and the students can be affected positively by service learning projects.
One of the big impacts of service learning on local communities is the cultural exchange. This exchange goes both ways, with both the students and the community members learning about their respective cultures. This is an enriching experience for both students and the community; however, it also holds key benefits for the community. This is because they are given the opportunity to form lasting connections and can begin to learn or practice new language skills. Being able to speak English is a key tool in many countries for upward mobility — as is having connections outside of the community.
Having service learning projects and trips can economically assist the community in different ways. Primarily, many organizations that provide service learning also bring in funds to enrich the community. Further, students often bring gifts that assist in providing for families in need, and having an ongoing service project in the community can create jobs that help stimulate economic growth.
The ability to communicate and work with students can be more than just a cultural exchange — it can also be an exchange of ideas. Coming up with projects and discussing what’s needed in the community leads to innovation, and innovation leads to gradual improvements. Exchanging knowledge is a great way to effect change and have an impact.
While there can be many benefits to service learning, it’s important to keep in mind that no one act can be sustainable without a dedicated organization devoted to making a long-term impact. When you go on a service trip, take into consideration that the organization you travel with should be working with the community it services to make the best possible impact.
One organization that offers these kinds of service learning opportunities is Caritas Smile. Caritas Smile offers trips to the Dominican Republic and Honduras through the Take a Trip, Change a Life Program. The program is dedicated to educating and empowering local women and children, and is concentrated in a small community where the focus is on making a long-term, sustainable impact.
There is one last service trip this summer to the Dominican Republic, and it isn’t too late to apply! Check it out today to make the first steps to helping us make a positive impact.
Emma Lasky is a Digital Marketing Manager at Caritas Smile, a non-profit service travel program dedicated to making positive impacts and sustainable changes for women and children in developing countries. As a burgeoning writer and content creator, Emma is passionate about raising awareness and activism to underserved communities around the world. To learn more about Caritas Smile, our mission, and maybe even take a trip yourself, visit our site.