Volunteering can be a great thing, but in many cases the term cultural exchange is better. This reminds us that we are learners in a different culture, and usually a new language, and that we share knowledge and experience, rather than teaching. Typically we learn more than we can teach.

We must beware of thinking or acting as though we are someone who comes from outside with the ability to do or fix things - we may have contributions to make, but we must consider bottom-up development and the importance of empowerment and participation. On your first trip to a developing world context, the most valuable things you can do are to listen and learn - and these remain extremely important even after years of experience.

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Published 2009
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