Our daughter, Caitlin, is studying International Relations at Simon Fraser University and a couple of years ago, she met Craig – the founder and owner of Insight Global Education – at a career fair for international studies students.
This led to her volunteering with Insight for 8 months or so, which led to her doing a co-op placement there in the summer of 2016 where she helped deliver curriculum at high schools in Vancouver and where she had a hand in writing some of their curriculum materials, developing programs and introducing teachers to Insight’s approach to student travel and service learning. One of the teachers she introduced to Insight was me – her dad! I’m a leadership and humanities teacher at Lambrick Park and she thought I might be interested in doing a service learning trip with a different approach… Turns out she was right. Smart kid that Caitlin…
Insight’s approach to service learning is unique. As they put it:
Build schools. Dig wells. Teach children. These are three of the most common types of international development experience youth pursue today. The voluntourism industry, though in its infancy, has become a major player in global education and travel.
It is our core belief that if you want to change the world for the better, then you need to really learn about it first. Good intentions do not always have good outcomes, and while some international volunteer projects really do have good outcomes, many others simply do not.
Our university and high school travel programs are rooted in local leadership and are built in partnership with a local stakeholders. Students participating in our programs – be it one of our 12-week university summer travel programs, or one of our 2-week immersive high school travel programs – don’t build anything. They don’t teach, nor do they impart; they meet, they experience, they engage, and they learn.
Our global education programs are different; we place the emphasis on learning through observation, through inquiry, through engagement with local change makers, and through experiential learning…
It’s this idea that we should learn about the world before we set out to change it that resonated most with me. For many years, I’ve been teaching my students the idea that we seem to keep getting ourselves into messes – with our families, with our neighbours, with our friends and enemies – because we rarely take the time to learn about the context of other places before we wade in trying to fix things. In teaching, it’s pretty well understood that if you want to move the kid in front of you from where they are now, you have to have at least a rudimentary understanding – and respect for – the person they are and how they got to be where they are. The same seems to be true of countries and cultures. They’re sort of like ecosystems where all the pieces fit together and everything performs a particular function. We might not agree with a particular culture’s treatment of women or their environmental practices, etc. but those practices are embedded in a cultural ecosystem and if we’ve learned anything about ecosystems in the natural world it’s that you can rarely wade in and start messing about with things and not end up messing a whole lot of other stuff up in the process.
Insight’s philosophy of providing students with opportunities to meet, engage with and learn from local change makers makes eminent sense so we thought we’d give it a go and see if we could pull together a group of kids to travel to Uganda and Rwanda. In the end, it turned out to be a bit more trouble pulling people together than we anticipated (mainly because of prior summer commitments) but with some flexibility from Insight (thanks Craig!) we’ve managed to put together a trip that works for all of us (if you haven’t seen our full itinerary yet, there’s a link to it at the top of the page).