Service Learning vs. Community Service: What’s the Difference?

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Today, many organizations are moving away from community service while embracing the concept of service learning. This seemingly subtle shift can have a powerful impact on the communities we serve and the values that volunteers learn during their experience.

Community Service

Community service is a voluntary act that strives to benefit others. Learning may happen during a community service experience, but it does not occur in a formalized manner. Often, volunteers leave with only a surface-level understanding of the problems that they worked to alleviate.

If a group of volunteers works together to participate in a neighborhood clean-up, then that would be an example of community service.

Service Learning

Service learning is a type of experiential education that aims to work closely with a community to meet that community’s real needs. Volunteers will learn about the context that surrounds community concerns while reflecting on their own experiences. Both the volunteering and education will reinforce each other to provide greater value for the group. In service learning, the world is a classroom, and every person that a volunteer meets will teach them something new.

If a volunteer group took a course on waste collection and recycling and later completed several local clean-up projects to learn about sustainable waste management in nearby neighborhoods, then that would be an example of service learning.

The Impact of Service Learning

Service learning experiences strive to make a lasting impact on volunteers, influencing them long after they return home. These experiences will help volunteers develop:

  • Civic Responsibility
  • Greater Compassion
  • Intellectual Inquiry
  • Personal Integrity
  • And Much More…

Types of Service Learning Experiences

Service learning can occur in your local community or abroad. For example, if you live near Essex County, NJ, and would like to pursue volunteer opportunities overseas, then you should contact a reputable organization like ILI Travel.

At ILI Travel, we organize voluntary services overseas for groups in Burlington County, NJ, and nearby areas. Our primary focus is on supporting economic, educational, and environmental sustainability in the areas that we serve. We offer several programs with different educational and community-based concentrations, such a language immersion and social justice tours.

To start planning your service learning trip, contact us today!

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