Gemma Bonfiglioli (2017) will be working with Professor Lori Gardinier on a research project exploring the impacts of international volunteerism on the server and on the served. The objective of this research initiative is to explore the practice of international volunteerism through two different perspectives and examine whether this practice is mutually beneficial and what the outcomes are for community members and servers.
Northeastern University encourages and provides the opportunity for a large population of students to participate in international volunteer work, making this project highly relevant. Gemma participated in a Dialogues of Civilizations program in Zambia directed by Professor Gardinier in the summer of 2013 where she carried out direct service work at a local non-profit organization, Fountain of Hope with the aim of implementing a capacity building project to increase the organization’s self sufficiency and empowerment. In addition, during the Dialogue, NEU students were grouped with students from the University of Zambia to develop and implement a Youth Summit Workshop directed at young orphaned children to educate them on basic life skills. This research initiative will enable Gemma to interview, question and challenge the staff members at Fountain of Hope and the University of Zambia students on their experience working in collaboration with the Northeastern group and their perception on international volunteers.
Gemma will be collecting qualitative data in the form of individual interviews and focus groups in Kenya and Zambia in order to present a comparative analysis. Professor Gardinier and Gemma applied for the provost research award and the undergraduate research initiative in order to help assist her with funding for the logistics needed to be taken in order to efficiently collect data. The awards will help cover expenses such as flight and her accommodations in Zambia.
Gemma is truly grateful and more than excited to have the chance to return to Zambia, discover Kenya and expose the views of community members and service workers. She hopes to collect data that will help influence and shape the practice of international volunteerism for the better in the future, so we can work collaboratively and effectively with communities towards community development and social change.