Journal of Global Citizenship & Equity Education, Vol 2, No 1 (2012)

Motivations for Learn/Volunteer Abroad Programs: Research with Canadian Youth

Rebecca Tiessen


This paper examines the motivations expressed by Canadian youth who took part in learn/volunteer abroad programs in the global south. The findings indicate that many of the motivations identified by the participants (testing an academic background or career choice, skills development, language acquisition, cross-cultural understanding and even the desire to help others) generally fit under the category of personal growth. The findings also highlight the extrinsic, egoist and self-oriented nature of these motivations and reflect a one-directional flow of benefits from the global south to the northern-based volunteers. A feminist post-colonialism analysis is used to reflect on the implications of self-oriented motivations of Canadian youth travelling to the global south, especially when funding for many of the volunteers who travel to the global south is provided by the Canadian International Development Agency – money that is earmarked for addressing poverty in the global south and not the personal growth of Canadians.

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