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Service Learning, Volunteering and COSA

IPSL strives to make volunteer service more ethical, accessible, and sustainable by facilitating relationships and learning between participants and communities.


IPSL does not 'place' you, rather, we facilitate opportunities for you to connect deeply with people and social change organizations all over the world.

Reciprocity and cultural humility is at the heart of all we do.

Please see individual program locations for examples of volunteer efforts.

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Mayan women's weaving collective enterprise

As an IPSL service-learning participant, wherever you are in the world,  you will have the opportunity to perform volunteer service in one of several local partner organizations/agencies. IPSL does its best to match your skills and interests to the placement, but please remember that the notion of service is, first and foremost, to respond to the needs of others. You will play a role not only by actively participating with a determined role among the team members, but also by supporting the projects and programs with your knowledge, experience, humility and hard work. In turn, your efforts assist organizations in achieving their goals in a sustainable, ethical way. 

Service Learning versus internship/practicum

IPSL service learning placements are determined, in part, by student interests and skills (and, in some cases, language abilities), but primarily by community and organizational needs. Central to the philosophy of service learning is the notion of service. Service learning is not the same as an internship or practicum although it may look very similar. The service in service learning may or may not be career-related. An internship is designed mostly so that the student will benefit by learning about his/ her future profession. In contrast, in service learning, the outcome of the student's work — that is, the service — is as important as the student’s learning. There are — or should be — benefits to those served. This reciprocity is a key component in international service learning.

Grassroots Efforts

IPSL's service learning placements are in development organizations that have sprung up from the grassroots, where locals have identified a need, and where the change effort is owned by them. IPSL participants should remember that they are stepping into a moving stream of initiatives and efforts that began long ago, and that will continue after the participant departs. Your work is important, but your individual contributions may not be visible for many years. In the meantime, you are fulfilling a need, and making a valuable contribution to development efforts in Guatemala.

A single organization may need hands-on assistance from IPSL participants (direct service) or assistance in the background building capacity (indirect service). Each is valuable. In actuality, IPSL participants do a little bit of everything. And this is as it should be. Nothing says "I'm a partner in your community" more than a willingness on the part of a service learning participant not only to do complex tasks, but also occasionally to pick up a broom and sweep the floor so that the setting is clean and presentable. Such actions serve to break down stereotypes about Americans and build equitable relationships. That is why many of the service organizations with which we work have been our partners for years.

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Ethical service in community

CPR class at midwifery clinic

Recent Opportunities

  • Food Justice/Security 

  • International Education & Exchange 

  • Peace and Reconciliation 

  • Indigenous Rights 

  • Sustainable Community-based Development 

  • International Intergovernmental Organizations (e.g. United Nations) 

  • NGO Empowering & Reintegrating Women in a Post-Conflict Society 

  • International Relief and Development Agencies (e.g. Doctors Without Borders) 

  • Urban Public Education Service Districts 

  • Sustainable Development in Coastal Zones 
  • Refugee Assistance/Education Center 

  • International Student Services/Study Abroad Offices 

  • Orphanage for Children Living with HIV/AIDS 

  • Residential Facility for the Disabled 

  • GAP Year International Service-Learning Organization 

  • LGBTQ Youth Advocacy Center 

  • Arts and Theatre Group Working with Disabled Adults 

  • Animal Welfare for Homeless Populations 

  • Residential Facility Assisting/Educating Sex-Workers 

  • Women’s Reproductive Health Clinics 

  • Community-Based Clinics in Underserved Regions 

  • Centers for At-Risk Youth 

  • Nonprofit Promoting Fair Trade 

Not sure yet of your desired location or type of opportunity? Contact us at IPSL to learn more about the options.

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