Is there the potential for ethical questions to arise simply by the framing of the pre-departure lessons as “problems”? The language of international development work traditionally rests on an us/them dialectic that puts the development worker in the role of “problem solver” and the international community in the role of “persons needing help”. For some students, the act of “helping” is so paramount that they will arrive at a site with pre-conceived notions of how they can provide service to the international community.

At what point in the preparation of students is it the teacher’s responsibility to instruct humility and observation, and at what point is the community partner invited to provide their own solutions to the problem as part of the classroom preparations? In preparing international service projects, the participatory project planning approach must include the community partner as co-coordinator and co-educator, or the project runs the risk of raising ethical questions.