Witnessing and Observing


The theme “Witnessing and Observing” was added to our ethical learning process after interviews with community partners identified concerns regarding considerations for effective interactions with the local community. This addition rounds out the five main themes of this workbook and will be incorporated in the next phase of ethical tool development.

Community Voice on Witnessing and Observing

“If a volunteer truly wants to make an impact they need time and they must invest in observing and listening for a long time.”

“People’s stories influence other people.”

“They [the volunteers] must wait before they act, they need to understand the context and this takes time.”

Therefore, EIESL interprets the theme “Witnessing and Observing” based on the assumption that to be ethical students and faculty members need to be conscious of the various complexities that exist when entering a new community and way of life and that they need to consider learning more about the community before jumping right into activities. Learning more about the community would include waiting and observing their way of life, listening to their comments and concerns and witnessing the local context before acting.

While challenging, “Witnessing and Observing” ensures that you are grounded not only in the host community’s culture, but also understand their lifestyle, problems and solutions. It ensures that you see the local issues from their perspective, and hence do not impose your own.