Our Approach to Cross-Cultural International Service Programs
Global Routes brings people with different worldviews together because we believe there is much to learn and much to be gained from this exchange. We understand that meaning is not inherent in travel or community service alone and that the full breadth of benefits possible from interactions with others requires thought and intention. We go to great lengths to ensure that our programs foster meaningful and reciprocal cross-cultural exchange.
What is meaningful cross cultural exchange?
Space for a genuine exchange of ideas, language, stories, customs, and resources through homestays, collaborative projects, and access to local knowledge. Time intentionally set aside for processing and reflection.
What is Reciprocal exchange?
An experience that gives value to everyone involved. Our students, program leaders, in-country staff and partners, and local host communities all play an essential role in our programs.
How Do We Create Meaningful and Reciprocal Cross-Cultural Exchange?
Long-standing Relationships with Knowledgeable In-Country Staff
All of our in-country staff were born and raised in the country where they are providing support. They have strong connections to local leaders and communities and are familiar with their goals, culture, and traditions. Our in-country staff is also very familiar with the goals and expectations of Global Routes. We have worked with many of them for over 10 years. Our most experienced staff member is celebrating 20 years with Global Routes!
Selection of Host Communities
Due to their close proximity and familiarity with local communities, our in-country staff are the perfect link to potential host communities. Communities often approach our staff to express an interest in receiving a group of Global Routes students. In order to choose a host community, our staff considers a number of factors:
- Is the community organized?
- Is the entire community excited about the opportunity?
- Will the community members participate in the project and other activities alongside the students?
- Has the community received a group of Global Routes students before?
We try to visit new communities each year so that many different people can participate in this unique experience and so that a particular community does not become dependent on our presence or the resources we offer.
Selection of Community Service Projects and Volunteer Teaching Positions
We want our community service projects and teaching placements to benefit the local communities. Many of our communities already have a specific project or placement in mind and request that the students’ time and fundraising monies help them make their dream a reality. Other communities gather their leaders or community associations and work with the Global Routes in-country staff member to determine an appropriate project.
Ongoing Program Evaluation
There is no way to know if our programs are truly fostering meaningful and positive cross-cultural exchange without asking our participants directly. We value feedback from everyone involved in our programs:
- Host communities: Our commitment to ensuring a positive, beneficial experience for our host communities is perhaps what most sets us apart from other organizations. In 2010, our Program Director visited 4 different previous host communities in Ecuador to learn more about their experience hosting our groups. Her research findings are posted on our blog. Our leaders have also gathered information from previous host communities in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Nepal. These visits are an essential part of program evaluation.
- Students and Parents: All students complete a written evaluation that we review to gain perspective on the student experience. Parents are asked to evaluate our programs through an online survey process.
- Program Leaders and In-Country Staff: All of our staff members complete a written evaluation and significant reflection and processing post-program. We also have a follow-up phone debrief between leaders and their students newly arrived home as well as with our in-country staff upon completion of programs each year.