Project Title: Maximizing the Benefits of International Voluntary Service: Relational Dimensions, Institutional Indicators, and Constructed Narratives
Summary: The goal of this paper is to answer the question: When are long-term immersive international volunteer programs most beneficial to local communities in Latin America? Through considering the different aspects of international voluntary service (IVS), the costs and benefits can be broken down into three frames of consideration. IVS can be thought of through relationship-building, institutional frameworks, and constructed narratives of service. IVS experiences that value relationships, community-building, and work within organizations that provide strong contextual frameworks for service best address the needs of the host community. However, these experiences may be constructed and marketed in many different ways via blogs, websites, and through other forms of social media. In contrast, IVS experiences that focus on the volunteer rather than the host community and have weak organizational structure will cause more harm than good to the host community. This research is critical because IVS is often discussed as having an explicit developmental agenda. Understanding the relationship between IVS and sustainable development will allow for more informed consumption of and participation in long-term international service projects. Guatemala is a host country that frequently receives IVS volunteers. Using Guatemala as a case study allows for an in-depth consideration of what works and what does not in an IVS program, and also opens up conversation for IVS in Latin America as a whole.