Posted: June 29, 2016
The goal of education is to instill a love of learning in students, a thirst for knowledge that comes from the intrinsic rewards of gaining information, a curiosity about the world around them that won’t disappear when schooling ends. Service learning is a fantastic way to get students to see education in this light, to continue learning both in the class and outside of it, to be engaged citizens and students for the rest of their lives.
There is reason that when tragedies occur journalists will show pictures of the victims. We connect to individuals. Hearing about people living in war torn countries or afflicted by disease is one thing, but seeing the faces of the people suffering is quite another. A face will always hit us in a way that words can’t. Service learning creates this connection to the individuals that are affected by global issues. This sort of connection is the kind that lasts, the kind that inspires individuals to continue learning and working towards change.
Service learning gives individuals the tools to get involved. So often individuals feel paralyzed in the face of statistics, even if one wants to get involved it can be paralyzing trying to figure out how to go about this. Service learning shows individuals how to connect their educational understandings to practical on the ground involvement. This is key, now service learning participants know how to continue taking action both internationally and locally.
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By taking time daily to engage in reflection students are beginning the process of thinking critically about global issues. Instead of simply digesting statistics students are processing their relationship to these numbers, thinking critically about their civic responsibilities, and questioning the best ways about enacting change. Taking the time to have these conversations and learning how to have them productively is guaranteed to lead to more discussion surrounding vital topics even after the service learning course has ended.
Service learning pairs you with established organizations that have developed roots in the communities where they work and have made much progress towards change. Individuals involved in service learning are part of a working organism moving towards change. Seeing how success works, seeing people who are actually making a difference, seeing how each individual can contribute towards that success inspires people to do more.
Being told that 3.1 million people die annually due to hunger is startling, but traveling to India and seeing children on the streets who are begging for something to eat is bound to make a bigger impact. Numbers are hard to comprehend, numbers do not make a lasting impression, numbers do not typically motivate us to act.
Personal experiences, exposure to the realities behind the numbers, real life experiences – this is what sparks life long involvement and engagement.
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Participating in a service learning program exposes students to effective leadership. The mentorship of a qualified and passionate leader can be a huge catalyst for students to move forward and take on leadership roles within their own community when they return home.
An international service learning course often times introduces students to one of their first experiences with global engagement. Having the support of the course means that students will be guided through successful cross cultural interactions, will learn how to communicate in a variety of new ways, and will be able to comprehend situations from multiple perspectives.
If nothing else, being around other motivated, focused, and inspired folks is bound to provide each individual with new drive and energy to keep fighting for change. Engaging in frequent conversations, working side by side others who are passionate about the difference that they are making, and learning about the personal ways in which others are contributing towards progress is individual fuel for a communal fire.
Working towards long term learning is essential in order to create long term solutions.
GVI is a multi-award winning service learning organization. Find out more about our international service learning programs and see how students from around the world are making a difference.