At SOS we are committed to providing hands on learning experiences to Canadian students and Outreach Trips are one of the ways we do just that. These trips provide an opportunity for reciprocal, experiential learning between student volunteers and our partnering communities. Our Outreach Trips, like our projects, involve a lot of people, and require a lot of time and attention to facilitate.This often results in asking: “Why not hire local people to do the work, for cheaper?” This is, to a degree, a valid question. The tangible outcomes of our Outreach Trips are often the structures built, which, we understand could likely be completed without SOS volunteers.
However, we’ve found that our on-the-ground collaboration with partner organizations facilitates a more efficient and accountable project outcome. For all projects SOS and the partner organization hires and pays local labours which acts as an additional source of income for communities. Not to mention the financial investment required for our partnering organizations to prepare for the Outreach Trip and ensure the completion of the project.
For SOS, what is equally as important as infrastructure development is the creation of interpersonal relationships and social justice education that does not occur with a simple transfer of funds. Fundraising money for projects without an understanding of a community’s context leads to a hand-out mentality that doesn’t encourage global collaboration. When students travel abroad, they learn and work with the communities to foster an experience where both participants and local community members are exposed to alternative forms of living. This encourages a broader understanding of the world and our role within the global context of development. Participants, be they international or local, carry these lessons home and spark long-term waves of change and opportunity.
It likely won’t be your manual labour skills that make the greatest impact. It will be the perspectives, understandings, and openness to change you gain while volunteering that continues to make experiences like these worthwhile for everyone that participates.
These trips contribute to the production of a generation of active and aware citizens that are able to think and relate to what is outside their immediate world. We believe equipping students with this experience will allow them to make positive actions for change, regardless of their career or occupation.
What Our Volunteers Say
In 2018, SOS conducted a project in order to better understand the motivations of students who apply to participate as volunteers on a SOS Outreach Trip. After a decade of providing Outreach Trips to students across Canada, we recognize that an in depth understanding of the motivations of volunteers is paramount for continued success.
The data in the report was collected from Outreach Trip applications submitted between 2008 and 2017. Over 1500 applications were reviewed. The results indicated that a high number of volunteers wanted to participate on an Outreach Trip because they are passionate about volunteering, want opportunities for personal development, and experiences to travel and learn about other cultures. The report also found areas for SOS to improve the Outreach Trip program in light of and in response to their motivations.