Service Trips

The Center for Service & Sustainability, in conjunction with the Office of International Education, organizes service trips throughout the year to take groups of students to different communities to learn and volunteer.

In the past, we have organized trips to four different continents and over eight different countries, as well as domestic service trips throughout the United States. Some of our previous trip destinations include Entebbe, Uganda; Charesca, Nicaragua; Bagamoyo, Tanzania; Monroe, North Carolina; and Apopka, Florida. While on these trips, students perform direct service in response to community needs and learn about issues such as hunger, homelessness, access to healthcare, education systems, and poverty as they relate to the community they are visiting.


SAP210 Place-Based Service Learning:

Puerto Rico (1 credit) - approx March 6-15, 2020 - $2000*

Through an immersive travel experience, students are provided a forum for critical reflection on community-driven service, intercultural experiences, power and privilege, and critical global engagement. Students will explicitly link personal experience, assignments, and discussions that explore the following broad themes: personal values & ethics, service in a cross-cultural context, global engagement, and how to communicate and stay engaged after the post-cultural immersion.

Much of Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017, leaving communities to rebuild with some support from federal aid (FEMA), humanitarian support from other organizations and individuals, and through their own ingenuity. This course will focus on the communities surrounding the El Yunque National Forest in eastern Puerto Rico and assess the various ways they are building resiliency despite a legacy of colonialism and the increasing intensities of climate change impacts. Through partnerships with Centro para la Conservación del Paisaje, and other organizations working to establish a UN Regional Center of Expertise in eastern Puerto Rico, this class will create a community resiliency report card to support their work. Students will gain cultural understanding by working on smaller, daily service projects that the community hosts need.

Uganda Service Trip - approx May 11-June 1, 2020 - $2,700*

Students will volunteer at an organization called Malayaka House, which is home to 40 children and 5 "Aunties" who care for the children. The group will stay at a guest house next door to Malayaka House, and will spend their time playing with the children, helping the Aunties with daily chores, helping with homework, working at their farm, and more. 


2020 Trips Info session: Thursday, October 17th, 4:30pm in CCM 232

Application for Puerto Rico due Monday, October 24th.

Application for Uganda due Monday, November 25th.

See Trip Overview Slides here. 

If you have questions, make sure to check out our Service Trip FAQs!

Group playing in Uganda

Why Do We Offer Service Trips?

The Center for Service & Sustainability at Champlain College organizes international service trips for many of the same reasons that we encourage students to study abroad: to have a life-changing cross-cultural experience—the service component is an added bonus for both the recipients and the experiences it allows our students to have. We feel there's an inherent value in getting to know people from another community (even if it's in your own backyard) and demonstrating to people that you care about them.

In just one example, we have worked with Malayaka House in Entebbe, Uganda since 2012.  We've been told by the Malayaka House founders and Board members that the children love having Champlain College students come to visit during the children's school holiday time; it gives the Ugandan staff members a well-deserved respite to have help caring for the 40 children that live in this forever-home; and the fundraising that Champlain students and employees do for this trip supports the annual cost of one child's living and schooling expenses (approximately $5,000/year).

There are rightful critics of some service trips that run the lines of “white savior complex” and “poverty tourism” and we do our best, in pre-departure meetings with students, to talk through these issues so that our participants understand the expectations and real purpose of the trip. It's our mission to ensure that these trips aren't viewed as students going over to "help" or "fix" something. Rather, we try to get trip participants to go with an open mind to get to know the children and adults at the Malayaka House and offer their time, love, energy, and "service" (whatever that means to them - maybe it's teaching the kids a new game or joining in a hobby like knitting).

It takes a commitment to really get to know a community; not come in with assumptions about what they need, but rather with open eyes, ears, and hearts. There's nothing our group can do that local community people can't do, and it's important that we make clear to the group what the purpose of the trip is. The article “Helping, Fixing, or Serving” by Rachel Naomi Remen is required reading for pre-departure preparation.

This short video that faculty member Keith Oppenheim put together after he co-lead the Uganda trip in 2017 shows how our students are able to speak to these issues.

*trip, dates, and fees are all pending full approval and may change.