Publication Date

2010

Degree Name

MA in International Education

First Advisor

Bill Hoffa

Abstract

Amid a global proliferation of international service-learning programs, an abysmally small number of studies exist that gauge community perspectives of these programs. This is particularly surprising given service-learning’s pronounced focus on reciprocity with communities. In light of this void in the literature, the following qualitative case study assesses community members’ perspectives of a local NGO’s international service-learning initiatives. The central research question was: How have the residents of Mbam and Yoff perceived the impact of NGO CRESP’s educational initiatives on their respective communities? The research was carried out in Mbam and Yoff, two distinct and in many ways contrasting communities in Senegal. I conducted semi-structured in-person interviews with a diverse demographic of 40 participants. The results of the research indicate that while community members could indeed cite benefits as a result of the service-learning initiatives, they considered reciprocity in terms of service in particular to be lacking. In fact, most of the benefits cited by community members centered on the intangible aspects of cultural learning and exchange. My research illustrates the pitfalls of espousing overly ambitious goals in the field of international service-learning, and calls upon practitioners to continually evaluate the theory and practice of their work. It also illustrates the importance of examining inherent power dynamics between “server” and “served,” as well as understanding the cultural context within which these programs are operating. The findings of this study are particularly applicable for those who collaborate with local organizations in their international service-learning work.

Disciplines

Community-Based Learning | Curriculum and Social Inquiry | International and Comparative Education

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