service trips
Every year, colleges and universities in the U.S. send students on service trips to the most impoverished nations on the planet. The students form teams and are sent with the intention of helping in small ways to create lasting impacts in the poor communities. What doesn’t get highlighted is the lasting impact that the poor communities have on the students.

Tyler Neville graduated from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine in 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications. During Neville’s freshman and junior years, he took part in one of the school’s annual service trips. The Borgen Project interviewed Neville about his experiences.

“My main motivation was my desire to travel. Service trips seemed a perfect blend of satisfying that while also managing to do some good for people,” Neville said. While providing aid to Guatemalans, he built a home for a family in need using “very basic construction methods.” Neville said the family was grateful. “They were quick to let us know how appreciative they were of what we were doing.”

Mutual Benefits of Service Trips

Neville’s experience convinced him everyone could benefit from a visit to a third world country. “To see people be so happy, caring, giving and generally wonderful with so much less than anyone I knew is a real eye-opening experience, and one that really changed how I viewed the world.” From his time in Guatemala, Neville formed a bond with the indigenous people strong enough to change his worldview. 

Why Volunteer Abroad?

Sending college students to the world’s most impoverished areas has become a movement. The Huffington Post wrote an article giving tips to prospective student volunteers. It provides service trips as an alternative to the usual winter/spring break activities and lists reasons to get involved. “The main motivator is usually altruistic — it allows you to help a community or cause that can benefit from your support.” The article also listed personal benefits such as improving professional skills, learning about a new culture, making new friends and having fun around the world. 

How to Get Involved

The Huffington Post article ends by giving advice on how to join a team and get involved. Organizations, like Global Volunteers, have begun to seek out college students as volunteers for efforts abroad. Global Volunteers is an international organization that sends volunteers abroad to combat global poverty. 

Saint Joseph’s College features a Student Service Trips tab on its website where students can see how to get involved. It mentions Partners in Development (PID), an organization based in Ipswich, MA that coordinates the teams going abroad. It is not just college students that get involved with PID. Anyone who can afford the cost of airfare and the trip itself can join a team

The service trip movement has gained traction due to its mutually beneficial relationship. Not only are the impoverished people provided with able bodies to help, but the students are provided with a lasting experience that changes their outlook on life and gives them skills that no classroom ever could. Neville said it best; “I believe one of the main goals of college is to expose yourself to varying viewpoints, cultures, opinions and experiences in order to broaden your worldview. The two service trips I was a part of provided all of those things in ample amounts.”

– Zach Farrin
Photo: Flickr