Helping or serving?

I spent a few days this week doing reconnaissance in China for a school camp that will be held in November.  A service orientated trip, it will allow students an opportunity to have some fun while doing some good work with the go2serve foundation in southern China.  In setting up some of the activities we needed to keep in mind the power of service – both positive and negative.  Despite the best intentions, at times what is framed as service  by international school students can actually create harm.  When service does not involve the community that it is intended to benefit in the planning or the process, when visitors fly in, do some ‘work’ and then leave feeling good about themselves, more harm than good can be created.  This can develop a mentality of seeing those in need as hopeless by those doing the ‘service’, where members of these communities can be blamed for their condition.  Service on trips, especially international ones, must be well planned, and must involve the target communities in all stages of the process.  It must be a ‘working together’ relationship, rather than a ‘working for’ one.

Related to this, here is an excerpt from an article I read recently that nicely sums up my position:

Serving is different from helping. Helping is not a relationship between equals. A helper may see others as weaker than they are, needier than they are, and people often feel this inequality. The danger in helping is that we may inadvertently take away from people more than we could ever give them; we may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity or even wholeness.



Wow…a whole eight weeks since my last post.  At times it is hard to keep on top of things, and this blog, despite my intentions, drops down my list of priorities.  And here am I to talk to my students about the need to better manage time, not to procrastinate, to manage their tasks…. I might need to take some of my own advice.  Any help on being consistent with blogging?

Valentines CAS

I’m not a romantic, and do not like the commercialism of days like Valentines Day (what is the global footprint of Valentines Day?), so I am surprised I’m making a post on this topic.  However, the people at Youth Service America (YSA) have got a good perspective when it comes to celebrating Valentines Day.  Check out there top 10 ways of showing your love, many of which offer some good ideas for CAS activities.


School administrators matter

I made a past post referring to the importance of a CAS Coordinator in ensuring a positive CAS programme.  I want to add to the notion that CAS Coordinators matter – the understanding of CAS by school administration matters!  I’ve heard a few horror stories of the lack of support that some CAS Coordinators get from their school administrators.  Reading some posts on the OCC (IB’s Online Curriculum Centre) it is clear to see that some CAS Coordinators are above their heads, and lack support from their school.  Those school administrators who get CAS do their best to ensure that their CAS Coordinator is supported in developing a positive CAS Culture in the school.  They see the importance of the work of the CAS Coordinator, and see the many positive benefits that a positive CAS experience give to students and to the school community in general.  CAS is central to the IB Diploma Programme, and school administrators must fulfill their responsibility to ensure that this part of the core is well delivered.


Reducing the digital divide

This TED Talk by Aleph Molinari could be a valuable resource for those who are looking at reducing the digital divide as a CAS activity.    Setting up community centres where computers and Internet access are provided free of charge.  Throw in CAS students creating and teaching others how to use computers and the scope for this CAS project increases a notch.  And then there is the idea of reusing computer parts – collecting from the school community, refurbishing and then

The presentation also raises some interesting points related to the CAS learning outcome ‘ethical implications’.  How do we reduce the digital divide while also considering our ecological footprint?  As Aleph Molinari points out, getting computers to the billions of people without them will have a massive cost to the environment.  And how can reducing the digital divide be a part of social action?  I’m thinking here the use of the Internet to support social movements such as those in the Middle East last year.   Some of the comments posted in response to the talk (scroll down) also relate to the CAS learning outcome ‘ethical implications’.

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Upcoming Green Teacher Webinars

Green Teacher, a magazine that helps youth educators enhance environmental and global education inside and outside of schools, have started up another series of Webinars.  A number of sessions have already been held, with more to come.  Here are the topics, more information on the presenters and session sign-ups.  A great advantage of these sessions is that if you cannot attend archived recordings are also available on the website free of charge (to anyone for one month following each webinar, and thereafter available to Green Teacher subscribers only.)


Can sacrificing something be a CAS activity

How can sacrificing something – favourite chocolates, coffee, meat, watching tv – be turned into a CAS activity?

There is a lot of scope here for a meaningful and beneficial CAS activity.  From investigating and advocating about free trade (and avoiding non-free trade coffee/chocolate) to “Meatless Monday” campaigns, where students educate the community about personal and environmental health issues that result from increases in beef consumption and persuade people to not eat meat on a Monday.  “Earth Hour” works on the premise of making a sacrifice, as does “No Throw Thursday” where students are encouraged to bring their Thursday lunch that contains no items that they will throw in a rubbish bin at school.

The issue of making a sacrifice can also lead into great discussions about the tragedy of the commons, and even how a willingness not to sacrifice can lead to the collapse of a society, even if they see it coming.

Talking about making sacrifices, World Vision has released it’s Relentless ACT:S of Sacrifice campaign.  Coinciding with the Christian tradition of Lent, World Vision’s Relentless ACT:S of Sacrifice will involve participants taking on a series of creative challenges to explore what it looks like to put others before ourselves in our day-to-day lives.  For more details and to sign up click here.

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YSA Resources for service learning

Youth Service America have added some valuable teaching resources to their website that provide step-by-step guides to help youth and adult project organisers plan and lead high quality activities as a part of YSA’s Semester of Service or Global Youth Service Day projects.   Other resources on the page are also valuable for CAS and service-learning activities.


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Teachers matter – CAS Coordinators matter!

Reading about some recent research on the Shanker blog about how teachers matter, it made me think about how, in regards to the outcomes of a CAS programme, CAS coordinators matter.   If a CAS Coordinator is under-resourced, lacks support from their administration, and, to no fault of their own, is untrained or ill-prepared, then the chances of the aims of CAS being achieved are quite low.  It is unfortunate when schools have to twist the arm of a teacher (sometimes quite strongly) to take on the CAS Coordinator role, leaving the new coordinator taking off from the start with little enthusiasm for their newly found role.  This also often results in the new coordinator having a poor understanding of the CAS programme and how to properly implement it.

The success of CAS, as measured by the impact of participating in the programme on both the students who complete it and the communities that they serve within their activities, is very much dependant upon the CAS Coordinator.  Not only on them as a person and a teacher, but also on the support that they are offered by school administration.    CAS Coordinators matter!

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The YSA List: The 25 Most Powerful and Influential Young People

Youth Service America is asking for nominations for their “YSA List”.  The YSA List will recognize 25 young people (aged between 5 – 25) around the world that have made significant, large-scale change in five categories – Health, Education, Human Service, Human Rights, and the Environment.  Any CAS students you know of who could be nominated?  Nomination form