Short-Term Service Trips Infographic

Page 1

Short-Term Service Trips

intended to benefit vulnerable children and families



There is some concern that short-term volunteers pose risks of harm to vulnerable children.

Millions travel annually for these short-term trips, which often involve volunteering with vulnerable children in residential care or orphanages.

The goal of this study was to learn more about pre-trip engagement, in-country activities, and how these impacted preparation and trip experience.

In a study of 353 adults in the USA

Though a prevalent practice, little research exists on how volunteers are prepared and what activities they engage in.


completed NO pre-trip requirements

Community Benefits


Community Concerns

Transfer of skills Positive relationship building Advocacy development interacted with vulnerable Economic growth children on their trip Encouragement to local partners

Volunteer Benefits Cultural exposure Religious engagement University credits Self-development, new skills New relationships

GOAL minimize risks


Child Protection Concerns

said their interactions were unsupervised

Of those who DID have pre-trip requirements:

32% 58%

background checks

maximize benefits

Ethics Sustainability Language barriers Unqualified workers Power differentials

general training

Child safety Risk of maltreatment Disrupted attachment Violations of rights

A significant and growing conclusion among researchers is that shortterm international volunteering in residential care centers is incompatible with promoting the wellbeing of children.

Participants who completed pre-trip requirements felt more prepared and satisfied with their trip.

Short-Term Service Trips

intended to benefit vulnerable children and families

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SENDING AGENCIES Sending agencies who coordinate volunteer trips, such as NGOs, churches, and universities, have a vital role to play in increasing the potential for benefits and decreasing the potential for harm as related to these trips.

Identify Volunteering Objectives At times, volunteers may have an inflated sense of the impact they will have on a community or population. Prior to planning a trip or selecting volunteers, sending agencies should consider their understanding of the purpose and objectives of short-term volunteering to make sure they are realistic and truly helpful.

Carefully Evaluate All Potential Volunteers Sending agencies should thoroughly screen all applicants for volunteering to ensure the safety and well-being of intended beneficiaries and other volunteers. Screening should include a background check, references, and interview.

Establish Expectations Identifying clear examples of appropriate and inappropriate behaviors can impact volunteer behavior during the trip. Asking about motivations and intentions during the interview process will allow trip providers to select volunteers in alignment with trip objectives.

Require Thorough and Relevant Pre-Trip Requirements Training prior to a trip on the specific activities a volunteer will engage in can support their effectiveness. Learning about long-term local efforts can help volunteers understand their role in the greater context of larger efforts. Education about systemic and generational structures of poverty, cultural sensitivity, cultural humility, child protection, and issues pertaining to race could improve the volunteers’ abilities to engage with the communities in a meaningful and respectful way

Protect Vulnerable Children Help volunteers identify ways to support the families and communities that care for vulnerable children long-term. Doing so can maximize impact and minimize harm. Where interaction with any children is deemed appropriate, all activity should be supervised.

Identify Alternative Models for Short-Term Volunteering Improving pre-trip screening and preparation can serve to avoid preventable challenges that limit positive outcomes. Further, preparation and wise engagement was connected to greater volunteer satisfaction.

Sending agencies should focus on models that minimize risk of harm, are in partnership with local entities serving long-term, and support families and communities.

Based on research by Amanda Hiles Howard, Nicole Gilbertson Wilke, Jacqueline Gustafson, and Megan Roberts