Ask yourself these 16 questions and more before agreeing to or planning a spring break mission trip.
1. Have you ever spent a significant amount of time living in community without having a supervisory role there?
2. Do you speak the language?
3. Do you understand the social and economic context for the specific community?
4. Are you making assumptions based on information from books, teachers, movies, political discourse? Which ones?
5. What stories have you been told about this community, and by whom? .
6. Who invited you?
7. What story are you planning on telling when you leave? Is it positive—empowering, emboldening, supportive, learned, humble?
8. Or does it portray the community in language such as poor, suffering, uneducated, uncivil, disobedient, incompetent, nonbelievers, dark, depressing, sad?
9. Alternatively, are you telling a story about how happy these people are, despite their sad, poor, destitute, deprived, dark existence?
10. Did you ask for consent before posting a picture?
11. Did you follow up and share your picture with the parents or subjects if possible?
12. Why are you doing this? What is your goal?
13. If your goal is to help, how do you plan to do that? Have you thought it through thinking about its effects in 5, 10, 15, 20 years? Are you helping? Or contributing to a cycle of isolation and coerced dependency?
14. Are you spending money in the local economy? Are you buying, eating, driving, staying, locally? This is perhaps the greatest gift you’ll give.
15. Are you interested in learning about history and interacting with different communities?
These are just some of the questions we should be asking ourselves or asking our colleagues when global mission, voluntourism, youth mission trips, and international volunteering come up in conversations. Print this out and share with your colleagues as a self-check in, and share with us what you learn in the comments!