Wednesday, June 13, 2018

First Aid Training

On 1 August, I'll begin a full-time position at Syracuse University London as their Community Relations Manager, which includes running their internship program, creating volunteering opportunities for students abroad, and mentoring undergraduates' professional development. I will also be teaching three classes a semester, on themes of environmental justice and global citizenship.

One of the reasons I was so happy to say 'yes' to this job offer was the emphasis Syracuse London places on their staff's personal development. I've been working part-time with them for almost a year, and have had a lot of opportunities already - and seen others for my colleagues.

This week's 'fun' was a three-day intensive first aid training, including emergency action in the case of cardiac arrest, gunshots, roadside collisions, and the like. I've had a fair bit of training in the US through Girl Scouts, church, etc., but it was nice to add a formal UK qualification, and get a concentrated brush-up of the various bits and pieces I've picked up over the years!

Our full reception team, the facilities staff, and another professor we're trying to launch a second travelling seminar with also attended - so it ended up being quite a fun team bonding exercise as well, especially when we had our scenario and exam roleplaying sessions. You never quite know who you're working with till you see just how well they can fake a faint. ;)

Anyway, now I get to carry an official card and everything!

I'm not saying you should get into a life-threatening emergency just because I'm around. But if you do, mayhap I'll be of some use?!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Thoughts on Volunteer Tourism

A professor from Michigan State poked me on Facebook, asking for comments on the following video about some of the problems with volunteer tourism (or 'voluntourism'):

So for this week's random post, my response: 

Travelling to places and performing 'service' can be and is often valuable - so long as you recognise and make explicit that it is service learning. The trip should be understood by all parties as an investment in the professional and personal development and worldivew of the traveller, at least as much as (and generally more so) a concrete form of support for a host community.

The inherent inequalities in the relationship also need to be addressed: Oftentimes, volunteer tourism involves a privileged person going to an underprivileged place and interacting with individuals whose level and types of privilege will not allow them to travel in the other direction. Tourists, hosts, and programs should consider how they want to tackle this issue - both within the trip and more systematically.

For my PhD, I spent time with three local organisations as 'free' staff while conducting fieldwork - but I wasn't really free labour; I interrupted work patterns and required plenty of attention and care. And I will always worry that I got more out of it than they did.

One concrete action I took in response to this concern: After my fieldwork, I used some of my research funds and applied for an additional grant to bring youth representatives from the organisations that had hosted me to a conference in the UK. Two of the students had never been on a plane or been able to leave their home country before. It was an absolute joy to be with them as they experienced a new place, and actively challenge the dominant flow of humans, expertise, and cultural exchange in the world.

Travel has massive impacts on people. It's up to us to make those impacts as positive as possible, and as equitable as possible. That means questioning when and where we and others can and can't go and why - and once we know some of those answers, to try and change them.