A teaching and learning approach that integrates volunteer community service with academic study to enrich learning, teach civic responsibility, and strengthening community (National Commission on Service Learning)
Your community service is not about you: it’s about the community —the organizational partners and the beneficiaries. Keep that in mind. Don’t think of yourself as superior to them.
In general, practice mutual respect . Be sensitive. Don’t be rude. Don’t be disruptive. Don’t proselytize. Don’t make derogatory remarks (racist, homophobic, anti-women, etc.). Don’t condescend. For instance, don’t say: “That’s only for undergraduate students.” Don’t say: “I’m teaching,” esp. when it’s out of context. Don’t patronize . For instance, don’t say: “I’m doing this for the undergraduate students. They need my help. I’m helping them.” You will see for yourself that old age (hunger and homelessness, etc.) is not abstract but real social issue. Your service learning puts a human face to social issues.
Do not self-segregate yourselves . Leave your pride at the door. Remember that first and foremost you are a in pluri-ethnic coalition engaged in social action to provide voluntary community service. Do not socialize and have fun just among yourselves (the “in-group”), such as by wearing disposable gloves, giggling, laughing, and taking funny pictures. You are there to show that you care and will provide caring services. Do not take photos of beneficiaries without their consent. Care from a belief in and feeling of connection to the others. Develop relationships.
Don’t be an outside voyeur looking in. Rather, be a collaborator . “Trade places” and try to think as though you were in their shoes. See yourself as the others in order to break the separation between the server and the served.
Recognize similarities but do not assume too much sameness as to forget stark socio-economic-political-cultural differences. For instance, don’t think that “we are all basically similar, except that they don’t have homes.” Try to understand the underlying historical, economic, political, ethnic, gender, and cultural causes of homelessness.
Don’t judge the collaborating partners and the beneficiaries. For instance, don’t impose your cultural biases and judge that the American senior citizens are lonely because they live alone. There are different ways of experiencing how to be happy in different societies in different points in time.
Integrate social justice issues in your service learning. Don’t call what you did as neutral and “good work.” Call oppression as oppression and work for social justice. If we cannot name oppression “oppression,” then we ourselves are involved in perpetuating it.
Recognize that there is a power imbalance . The servers are powerful and the served as disadvantaged. Cultivate respect .
The requesting partners (participants) could give tokens of appreciation . If possible, bring them along and give to the participating partner organizations upon leaving the premises. In that way, there will be no problems later regarding how to send your tokens to them.
Engage in critical reflection . In five minutes, write down what you have learned. Review the program objectives in terms of knowledge, skills and values that you are expected to learn. Match theory with practice. Your critical reflection paper is part of your journal entry for the day. Remember the principles of good writing vs. bad writing.
Critical reflection and plenary discussions. Exchange papers, read, and discuss . Personal transformation? Implications for social transformation?
Write a thank-you letter or email explaining what you have learned (not what you have done to help them). Do not give a critique. Send a personalized, home-made (not computer generated or printed) thank-you card.