Welcome to the Youthlinc Impact Modules. All participants will complete monthly impact modules that will address issues of bias, white saviorism, and mental health. These modules will help participants to understand themselves and others before traveling internationally. These modules help us become better humanitarians and set us up for sustainable best practices while we are serving abroad.


What is Humanitarianism?

What are common guideline for Humanitarian work?

What is Humanitarian best practice?

How do we ensure best practices are in place when choosing to volunteer or support an organization?

How does this apply to Youthlinc Service Year opportunities?

What to look for in organized volunteer opportunities

SECTION 1: What is Humanitarianism?

What is Humanitarianism?

Youthlinc’s Mission is “Creating Lifetime Humanitarians.” What is a Humanitarian?
The most common definition is “to be concerned with the welfare of humanity” by definition Humanitarians display “Acceptance of every human being for plainly just being another human, ignoring and abolishing biased social views, prejudice, and racism in the process.”

When we look closely at what Humanitarians embody we can breakdown Humanitarianism into Four main principles.

Four main principles of Humanitarianism:

  • Humanity- Saving Human lives and alleviating suffering wherever it is found
  • Impartiality- Acting solely on the basis of need, without discrimination between or within affected populations.
  • Neutrality- Acting without favoring any side.
  • Independence- the autonomy of humanitarian objectives from the political, economic, military, as separate and unrelated issues. 

Humanitarian means harboring an attitude of compassion and empathy for every other person.
It means you recognize the similarities we all share.

What is Voluntourism?

Describes tourists volunteering for a charity or a development organization in a developing country for a short period admidst their other travel plans. These types of activities are usually organized by for-profit travel companies.
While usually well-intentioned, they are criticized from valuing profit or the experience of the volunteer over impact impact. They are also criticized for perpetuating situations of crisis and poverty in an attempt to gain volunteer aid.  Finally, they are said to pump unskilled and unqualified labor into settings where they are often more of a nuisance than an asset.

How do Voluntourism and Humanitarian opportunities differ?

As we look at how voluntourism and humanitarianism differ from one another, it is important to remember that there are both advantages and disadvantages to international aid at all levels. Humanitarianism is as complex as the individual and collective humans we work along side with. Humanitarian aid is an ever changing model and is constantly being re-evaluated to understand what has the most impact, reduces harm, and is overall best practice. Even within humanitarian aid, what applies as best practice in one area may not be an appropriate approach across the board. Humanitarianism is a very complex and ongoing conversation, with nuances and questions that sometimes cannot easily be answered, or will only be answered over time and experience. It is important to continue to ask questions and move forward with a growth mindset. It can be difficult to see the difference between voluntourism and humanitarianism without understanding the the details of the organization you are working with, what collaboration is happening with the population being served, how they evaluate impact, and efforts to improve processes. Many voluntourism opportunities look like quality humanitarian aid by utilizing previous humanitarian aid practices regardless of their impact or proof of inefficiency and harm. For example, in our previous impact module we discussed sustainability and appropriate use of a hand out, and how our understanding of handouts has changed to focus on the overall lasting impact on the community. There is also growing evidence to support that even seemingly harmless construction projects can actually be detrimental to community development and resources. For example, if you sign up for an experience that only focuses on quick infrastructure outcomes and has unqualified workers attempt to build a library in Tanzania without proper guidance from the community, professional contractors, and local craftsman, may find themselves creating more work, as well as reduced pay and opportunities for locals. A volunteer may reflect on their time in Tanzania and realize that as they and their group attempted to build a library by day, men from the community would have to come back, tear down the day’s work, and rebuild it because it hadn’t been done correctly. When volunteers come into a country to do seemingly good projects without direction from the community, local experts and with impact in mind, they may perpetuate local issues and take away opportunities rather than provide them. All this being said, you absolutely can have amazing, rich, positive ethical international volunteer opportunities by working with non-profit organizations who prioritize the overall impact they have in the communities, working in partnership with communities, and value human welfare over profit-making business-models.

SECTION 2: What is Humanitarian Best Practice?

It is possible to engage in ethical international aid. With more time, work, coordination, and critical thinking, you can help turn a harmful voluntourism activity into one of inclusion, sustainable growth, and cultural exchange that harbors positive gain for all parties involved. Let’s take a look at poor and best practices. While looking at best practice, it is important to remember that the humanitarian community is constantly evaluating and improving. You may notice that some of these poor practices may not appear to be immediately harmful, or even resemble past widespread practices. Best practices have developed through a process of evaluating both intent and impact. With a growth mindset, humanitarian organizations and academics continue to ask questions and seek to understand how best to improve human welfare in all corners of the world. It is important that everyone, organizations, communities, volunteers all ask themselves where can we improve, how can we be more sustainable? 

  • An organization only prioritizes the experience of the volunteer, either for personal gain, experience or profit
  • Promote or exploits vulnerable populations
  • Promote that your work and only your work is saving people creating an imbalanced power dynamic and co-dependency
  • Share and promote cultural, religious, or political ideas, to further an agenda
  • Disregard communities’ needs and wants
  • Provide solutions to problems through a single point of view Assuming that your solutions are the best and only way forward
  • No assessments or reflection of impact and progress
  • Solely focusing on short-term or immediate change
  • Working outside of professional qualifications; Participating in projects without proper skill or qualifications to do so

Common Pitfalls of Service Trips:


  • An Organization must prioritize the impact on a community. Quality organizations can provide a meaningful experience with a focus on both the needs and strengths of the community as well as the needs and strengths of its volunteers
  • Promotes strengths and possibilities of vulnerable populations when given proper support and opportunities
  • Working with the autonomy of humanitarian objectives from political, economic, military, religious, or cultural agendas
  • Working along side with local representatives (community leaders and community organizations, locally-run NGO or non-profit organizations, local government agencies)
  • Includes mutual buy-in and engagement
  • Goals set with local partners to focus on both short-term and long-term goals
  • Annual reviews, reports on progress, and reflection on what is working well for all vested parties before moving forward
  • Must be willing to adapt, grow, and implement changes that reflect the populations being served
Running health clinics without qualified medical training or experience
Build structures, but completely discount the skilled workers in the community who may have construction experience
Bringing large quantities of donations without thinking of local economies or actual needs
Taking away any paid work opportunities from people in the community
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Is the organization led by, or partner with, other organizations or people from the populations or communities being served?
Does the organization ask communities what they need, listen, and then offer that support?
Does the organization center its goals on the local community-lead organizations and take a supportive or background role?
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SECTION 3: Youthlinc Practices

What does Youthlinc do to align themselves with humanitarian best practices?

Since 1999 Youthlinc has strived to follow best practice models. Like many organizations we have grown and developed as humanitarian-aid best-practice models have evolved (and continue to evolve) for the better. Youthlinc approaches all of our programs with a growth and development in mindset. Connecting individuals and communities has allowed us to assess needs and collaborate on solutions both locally and internationally through diplomatic relations.

Let’s take a closer look at Youthlinc’s Service Year Program Model.

Youthlinc is a partnering organization

Youthlinc has two overlapping missions. We often refer to our primary mission that embodies all 5 of Youthlinc’s programs, which is to create lifetime humanitarians. However, there is a secondary mission that equally drives our Service Year program, which is to support our partners in achieving their missions.

Youthlinc’s mission is Creating Lifetime Humanitarians
Youthlinc’s secondary mission is to support our partners to achieve their missions.

In order to understand the challenges in each community, we work and collaborate the local experts. Youthlinc partners with locally run non-profit organizations, local government agencies, and community leadership teams. We cannot possibly begin to understand or know the needs of communities if we fail to include the populations being served in the conversations and planning to goes into promoting humanitarian welfare. By listening to the needs of the community and involving them at every step, we can ensure projects align with the community’s short and long-term goals. It is equally important that while working with our partners we have open communication about correcting approaches that are not effective and about ensuring that the communities desire to engage with us and our volunteers remains a value to them.

Youthlinc has 6 core areas of focus and we categorize all projects into “committees.”  Committees include: Business Development, Community Health, Education, Vocational Training, Ecological, and Cultural Exchange. Throughout the Service Year, we empower team members to plan, oversee, and execute projects during the international trip.  Youthlinc staff and In-Country Coordinators evaluate the last year’s projects and begin planning for the upcoming year, using past work as a framework for more effective impact. This includes in-depth communication with our partners and on-site visits by Youthlinc staff (as needed) to determine how to best move forward as partners on future projects.

  • The communities in which we work want us there. We are there by their invitation, not imposing ourselves without joyful consent.
  • Youthlinc values our relationships with each of the communities are dedicated to listening to their needs and wants.
  • Youthlinc coordinates with local health professionals to determine common illness in the area. With this information we then hold a community health fair and focus on the education or preventative care and encourage communities to seek out the local health care resources.
  • If there is an interest or need in the community to explore business development, our partners will assist Youthlinc in holding a business seminar that is adapted to and values the local community’s approach to commerce.
  • Our partners have relationships with local women’s groups and then advocate to Youthlinc about what skills or trades they are interested in learning more about– then we support their Vocational goals.
  • We work with the local school headmaster and teachers to facilitate an education camp. Lesson topics or focus is driven by the school, which include topics on English, literacy, mathematics, music and art, or STEM activities. We work in schools that want to host us and use only the time they are comfortable giving us.  If school is still in session, Youthlinc teams will often have half days or a rotating schedule to classes.  If school is out of session, then the school also students to register for a special English or STEM camp (as an extracurriculur) that they attend while we are in the area.  These camps are always free to the students and Youthlinc provides lunch to the students if it is not provided by the school. 
  • When Youthlinc supports an infrastructure project we hire professional contractors and labor to oversee the project to completion. They then assign tasks to our team that are suitable given their particular skill level. When considering the budget for projects, we include cost of local labor, instead of taking away opportunities we provide opportunities for both our volunteers and the community.  
  • Youthlinc’s partners work extremely hard to improve the welfare in their local communities. As a partnering organization it is important to have mutual engagement and buy-in. To match those efforts, the Service Year program requires all participants to engage in local service, monthly meetings, and impact modules over a 9-month period. This prepares volunteers to travel abroad and provides a better understanding of the needs of their local communities– whether it be just across the street or around the world, Service is a bridge to connect communities to celebrate and improve the human condition.

Next steps in continued growth:

Best practices are always changing and adapting and we invite you to join the conversation. We hope these modules have given you the tools to evaluate your ability to influence and impact the world around you as an individual and as a global citizen. As you continue your path to becoming a lifetime humanitarian, we hope you continue to look for sustainable options for change, growth, and development and challenge others to do the same, including Youthlinc and other humanitarian organizations. It is only through questions, continued conversations, collaboration, and critical thinking that we can continue to develop positive changes in our practices as humanitarians.