“Service abroad” programs have been the subject of major controversy. From the exploitative photographing of black and brown children to issues of sustainability, it is clear that these trips do not produce the benefits that are often marketed by the sponsoring organizations. In fact, instances of outright harm caused by these programs are unfortunately common. Still, thousands of people continue to sign up for service trips every year with the hope that their presence abroad can somehow play a role in “improving” the world.
This is a guide for you, the well-intentioned person whose interest in relieving poverty (or perhaps in boosting your resume) has led you to book a service trip to Latin America.