Hands-On Cultural Experiences
Community partnerships are at the core of ICPSD. Those partnerships reach far beyond country or continental borders. Beginning in 2016, our Experiential Learning Program (ELP) has helped push social change forward through authentic, educational, and meaningful interactions between different cultures. We have partnered with universities and high schools to bring students from around the world to join us in Togo for cultural and service oriented experiences. They help local members with improvement projects selected by the community based on their priorities. They learn about the history and culture of the community. They join local youth for sports, dance, meals and other activities.
Our goal is to help communities with improvement projects that meet the needs of local communities as defined by those people. To disrupt the old model of throwing money at something defined a problem from those outside the community and calling it good.
“Instead of people coming to various villages or countries in Africa and telling them ‘this is what we want you to do, this is what the problem looks like,’ what if we just go and try to learn from people. Then, we can discover issues together and try to solve them together.” said Romuald Afatchao.
There is a noticeable lack of education and understanding about African countries, cultures, and communities in the western world. This lack of knowledge can make it difficult for good-willed individuals to understand the needs of communities throughout Togo and the rest of Africa. We believe that the best way to learn about other cultures is with hands-on, interactive experience. Hands-on education of cultures and communities allows students from other countries to develop a more well-rounded perspective on different cultures. They get to see and experience how people live in these communities, explore issues with the people living them and meaningful ways they can support them.
With this program, we try to avoid the “savior” contexts that can be seen throughout Western media, development projects, and attitudes around the world. That context centers the volunteer rather than the communities being served and can lead to the volunteers looking down on the communities they engage with, rather than viewing them as fellow humans in a globally connected context. Through ELP, volunteers and community members alike learn more about each other’s culture, find new perspectives on life, and help one another grow as individuals and a community.
Interested in supporting experiential learning? Join our community of sustaining donors: The Forest. Interested in participating in the Experiential Learning Program? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.