Lessons Learned and Conclusions

We find clear benefits gained by combining the two institutional models of volunteering. The frameworks of volunteering outlined here can complement each other and be part of larger community development initiatives and the building of global solidarity. Through the analysis we better understand the foundations of and underpinnings to the volunteer frameworks. For the Comedor women community volunteers, their sense of community is rooted in their Andean ayni and their worldview about community. A progressive approach to international service learning framework allows Northern university volunteers to shift the conversation from charity orientations to thinking more about social justice and other global values.

Reciprocity took shape in several ways. Not only was it material in the sense Comedores were built and/or fixed and volunteers were feed, but it also was about sharing and learning together. Mutuality continues to grow as both frameworks learn from each other. Through values of reciprocity and mutuality, achieving global solidarity is a tenet in both frameworks. In fact, based on the research, we propose that global solidarity would be limited if a Northern ISL program partnered with a Southern program that was not based on ayni, as the Comedores so clearly were. Similarly, the ayni philosophy alone can promote solidarity within a Southern community; however, without partnering with a Northern ISL program, it might not be able to advance global solidarity.

Power differentials deserve the time to be considered, reflected, and acted on. Certainly initial barriers existed which included preconceived understandings and “othering” such as Southern volunteers seeing Northern volunteers as tourists and Northern volunteers influenced by images and applying Western constructions to their Southern partners. Northern volunteers needed to push past what has been called the “tourist gaze” (Urry, 1996), and this required purposive conversation and communication among and across all of the volunteers. Relatedly, while we understand the use of terms Southern and Northern, and we use them, we choose to use global solidarity over North-South solidarity. Using the distinctions of North and South in the context of solidarity might only reinforce the “us versus them” and “othering” mentality. Rather, when the worldviews of the South and North are brought together through volunteering, we are led to ask questions such as “What is community?” and “What is development?” These questions allow the different frameworks of volunteering to inform one another. Global solidarity is further enhanced when we combine them both rather than relying on either one by itself.

Volunteering occurs in many forms and within many frameworks. It can involve actions in one’s own community or in communities in other parts of the world. If volunteering is to advance global solidarity—particularly solidarity between people from the United States and people in Latin America—it cannot rely solely on one framework. Given the cultural and institutional contexts of the Northern and Southern volunteers, it is unrealistic to assume that either group would wholly abandon its volunteering model for that of the other. And, we neither advocate nor see the need for this approach. Instead, our experiences suggest that the strengths of each volunteer framework can be enhanced when paired with the other. By combining the best of Andean ayni and international service learning, there is the potential to form relationships of solidarity that can benefit the Southern and Northern volunteers and which may also extend to broader perceptions and relations. In this sense, we argue that volunteer frameworks and their exchange can be powerful resources in solving public and social problems, i.e., “wicked problems” (Rittel & Webber, 1973) , and advancing global solidarity. Because the Andean ayni framework is based on values which are similar to many other traditional cultures (Gachter & Herrmann, 2009), particularly those in the Americas (Andolina et al., 2009), our findings are not limited to the Peruvian context but rather have broader applicability for ISL programs seeking to collaborate with other traditional societies.

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