EIESL chose the theme of “Sustainability” to capture the key emerging questions, comments, and concerns arising from faculty and student dialogue sessions that focused on the considerations related to long-lasting impacts, actions and relationships.

Community Voice on Sustainability

“Our planning needs to be really good to make sure that programs can continue. It requires strong communication that is sincere and honest with the groups we work with and it will take time. We see international students working together with local students to be a way to see projects continue.”
– Employee of a Mexican Community Based Organization in Tzimol, Mexico

Are a few weeks in a community really enough to learn about a community and its complex issues in order to make a long-lasting impact?

How long can we continue to fly halfway around the world to “help” someone? How is this sustainable?

How do I ensure that the project I’m working on will continue after I leave?

Will my contributions result in positive long-term impacts for the community?

How do I work with community members and the local organization so that they are the ones that are ‘owning’ the project?

As a faculty member, if I leave UBC, who will continue the relationship with the community partner and the projects that we are working on together?

Therefore, EIESL bases its discussions in this guidebook on “Sustainability” around the assumption that, to be ethical, students and faculty members need to be thinking and acting in ways that work toward sustainability – of projects, relationships and impacts on the community.

Hence, the concept of sustainability in international engagement involves a deep interconnectedness between the social, economic and environmental dynamics that influence a community, and requires critical consciousness in order to be able to apply this tripartite concept to every aspect of the international engagement experience. Since the term ‘sustainability’ is so loaded, it might be more useful to think of this instead as “durability.”

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