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We at CAS Trips are excited to announce a groundbreaking initiative that we believe has the potential to reshape the landscape of experiential education: Community-Led Service (CLS) Trips.ย In a world saturated with traditional Service trips that often fall prey to voluntourism pitfalls, we are committed to breaking away from the status quo. Our focus is on providing an ethical and sustainable way to bring Service learning to life via travel, ensuring our impact is meaningful and leaves a lasting positive mark on the communities we engage with.

Ethical engagement and meaningful impact

Our CLS Trips transcend the conventional voluntourism model by prioritizing authentic connections and fostering a sustainable impact. Every trip is thoughtfully designed to ensure responsible student contributions and tangible benefits for the communities we visit. Our approach involves immersing students in the nuances of local cultures and ways of life before they engage in implementing sustainable solutions that address specific, identified needs.

Confronting the voluntourism dilemma

We are acutely aware of the dangers of voluntourism and of perpetuating the “white savior” narrative. Instead of adding to the problem, we have responded to the demand for Service with a commitment to ethical engagement. Our methodology is informed by working alongside industry-leading consultants and scouring the globe for projects and partners that align with these principles, ensuring we can make a positive and sustainable impact alongside allies we trust and whose mission we believe in. 

Redefining the Service-learning journey

The pre-trip engagement of students is a crucial aspect of CLS Trips, emphasizing comprehensive information, personal goal integration, teacher empowerment, and community bonding. Through detailed pre-trip meetings, students and teachers are equipped with the necessary knowledge and understanding of the destinations and projects.

To measure pre-trip engagement, we have created a pre-trip guide with lesson plans and presentations provided to teachers in advance. This interactive approach aims to enhance communication, coordination, and insight into student participation and commitment before the journey.

Taking stock of the situation before travel 

Another essential aspect of our new methodology is our aim to measure the impact on students before and after the CLS trip. We do this through a detailed evaluation to assess the success of pre-trip engagement objectives. This includes tracking how prepared students feel, evaluating engagement with the goal-setting and pre-trip reflection worksheet, and assessing participation through teacher surveys to gauge student initiative in pre-trip research and community bonding.

Discovering diverse destinations

Our trips will take place in Cambodia, Vietnam, Mexico, Peru, Bhutan, Zanzibar, Portugal, and Finland. Each destination presents unique challenges and opportunities, allowing students to engage with diverse communities and contribute to projects that align with local needs.

Bhutan: In Bhutan, our efforts focus on deterring human-wildlife conflict and strengthening farmers’ livelihoods, while adhering to and learning about the country’s carbon negativity policies. Inspired by recent conservation and sustainable living efforts, we work with our partners in Bhutan to create a transformative experience in a rural farming community. 

Cambodia: Our focus in Cambodia is on critical issues such as access to clean water, enhancing the local economy, and improving educational facilities. We collaborate closely with local organizations to ensure our infrastructure projects are community-led. Through this approach, students actively engage in initiatives that empower the local population, fostering sustainable change and creating a positive ripple effect.

Finland: In Finland, our initiatives are centered in Vasaraperรค, a quaint rural village. Our project intertwines with the ongoing issue of urbanization. Here, students play a vital role in maintaining public areas and sights, contributing to trail upkeep, and offering support to the elderly through activities such as snow removal and berry picking. This comprehensive approach preserves the village’s distinctive identity and fosters cultural exchanges, serving as a meaningful bridge between international students and the local community.

Mexico: Our commitment to preserving vital ecosystems is exemplified in Mexico, where students actively participate in sea turtle and jungle protection. We work hand-in-hand with local organizations along the Oaxacan coast to ensure students witness the beauty of Mexico’s biodiversity and contribute to the long-term sustainability of these ecosystems. 

Peru: In Peru, students are immersed in supporting Campesino communities in the Andean mountains, empowering local farmers and contributing to agricultural development. Inspired by recent agricultural initiatives, our project aims to maintain tradition, pride, and productivity. 

Portugal: Our partners in Lisbon provide a testament to the seamless blend of cultural immersion, community development, and environmental protection. Working to support the integration of marginalized communities, we engage in a unique project that includes plastic up-cycling initiatives and beach clean-ups to collaborate with the local community on creative initiatives.

Vietnam: Our focus in Vietnam revolves around infrastructure support, and our approach is rooted in collaborative efforts with the local community. Currently, groups are supporting the construction of a road from the bridge to the village road and extending to the fields. This road is the lifeline for the local community, providing access to markets and essential resources.

Zanzibar: In Zanzibar, participants actively contribute to local conservation initiatives by engaging in tasks such as enhancing nature trails and conducting various monitoring activities. This includes collecting important data on coral bleaching, dolphin tourism, and fish markets. These efforts aim to provide valuable insights to local authorities for informed decision-making in future planning endeavors.

Key features of CLS Trips

  • Hands-On Service: Beyond traditional models, CLS Trips immerse students in impactful projects addressing authentic community needs.
  • Cultural Immersion: Students engage in daily life, fostering cultural exchanges beyond typical tourist experiences.
  • Collaboration with Local Communities: Working alongside community leaders, NGOs, and organizations, students gain insights into real-world challenges and contribute to sustainable solutions.

Engaging a global community

In these transformative experiences, students are encouraged to showcase initiative, resilience, and critical skills, nurturing their progression into globally-minded citizens actively involved in the international community. Through CLS Trips, we aim to cultivate a sense of responsibility and empathy, creating young leaders who are aware of global issues and actively addressing them.

The CLS Trip mission and vision

The overarching vision is to foster a more interconnected and compassionate world, epitomizing the core values of impactful Service and global citizenship. Central to this objective is cultivating lasting relationships between students and their host environments โ€” shaping students into lifelong changemakers, aligning seamlessly with the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum.

Click here for information on CLS Trips and to join us in redefining the narrative of Service learning. We invite you to be part of the journey toward ethical engagement, meaningful impact, and transformative education.