Struggles for Mutuality: Conceptualizing Hosts as Participants in International Service Learning in Ghana

Katie MacDonald, Jessica Vorstermans

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


We have been working in volunteer abroad programming for over seven years. In this time, we have formed long-lasting and moving relationships with students from the global North who have been transformed by the experience of living and working with people in the global South, and those who have not. We have lived, worked, laughed, commiserated, and cried alongside host families who have welcomed these students into their homes, washed their laundry, tolerated their complaints, and included them in their family life and events. As colleagues and friends, this chapter and the broader study emerge out of many discussions we have had working in international service learning (ISL) about our concern with the exclusion of host families from the planning, implementation, and imagining of ISL in a way that is more than tokenistic. This chapter emerges out of a larger research project that we undertook in the summers of 2013 and 2014 in Ecuador, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, and Rwanda. We used surveys to ask host families about their experiences during the founding decade of Intercordia Canada (2003-2013). Intercordia Canada is a small, Canadian ISL organization founded by Jean Vanier that fosters human solidarity by encouraging young Canadians to be morally responsive and develop a respect and appreciation for religious, cultural, and socio-economic diversity by living and working alongside others who are different. The three principles of the work include: ‘being with’ is more important than ‘doing for’ others; encountering our weakness and vulnerability can be the source of significant growth and connection; and the journey of learning is best made together (Intercordia, 2015). We have both worked with this organization over the last seven years-as mentors, as campus representatives, as program planners, and more. As such, we are invested in this particular model of ISL, but also in the vision of Intercordia that values and centers hosts in the vision of programming and in the collaborative organizational structure that has allowed for growth and change within the organization.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Service Learning
Subtitle of host publicationEngaging Host Communities
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781315732305
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan. 2015


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