Service Learning Abroad Partnerships
"More than anything, this trip illustrated a connection to a grand constellation of folks who (in some superficial ways) are different from me. Yet, the similarities that bond our experiences are very real. I feel like part of something larger than myself."
graduate student, women's and gender studies
As much as dedicated faculty and inquisitive, engaged students, service learning programs depend on strong community partnerships. Examples of Rutgers’ community partners abroad include SURCO
, a community-based organization in Oaxaca, Mexico whose mission combines education and activism; and MUDHA
, a local non-profit in the Dominican Republic that advocates for the equal rights and empowerment of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent, with special attention to the rights of women and children. These organizations not only host students, but often go above and beyond to tend to other aspects of their stay, such as course instruction and program logistics.
While partnering with CGE to host students for short service experiences is a key part of their relationship with Rutgers, it is usually not central to their mission. Like many community-based organizations and non-profits, their mission is to serve the members of their community, often stretching resources in order to meet the greatest need. Unfortunately, as demand for service learning and international volunteer opportunities grows among universities and young people worldwide, the primary goals and needs of community partner organizations are often overshadowed by the potential benefits to student volunteers.
"Truth be told, there were times when I thought the kids at La Paz were teaching me more than I was teaching them, not just about the language and the culture, but also about being human. My time in Argentina made me realize that that was the kind of larger story I want to be a part of."
In response to growing imbalances between student learning and community gains, many universities and their community partners are turning to Fair Trade Learning
, a set of principles that calls for ethical, transparent, and community-driven approaches to service learning and short-term international volunteering. Its standards are designed to ensure that universities and international volunteer organizations give equal attention and priority to community outcomes, and that community partners take the lead in structuring partnerships and shaping the roles and responsibilities of student volunteers to maximize reciprocity and mutual benefit.
The principles of Fair Trade Learning are essential to strong community partnerships on which meaningful service learning experiences are built, and are deployed in the development and delivery of all Rutgers Service Learning Abroad programs. Tools for faculty interested in developing and assessing equitable community partnerships for service learning can be found at globalsl.org