Blog post by John May, Secretary General of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award International Association and Deputy Chairperson of the World Scout Committee.
Amongst many things that the Duke of Edinburgh's Award and Scouting share is a commitment to the values of service and volunteering. Even the youngest Beaver knows the importance of the "good turn", but Madagascar 2012 will transform the concept of the 'good turn' into genuinely life changing actions - for everyone involved.
For the young people who will be travelling from Canada, this will be the experience of a lifetime - an opportunity to immerse themselves in a very different culture and to make friends with people they would never normally have the opportunity to meet. On the hosts' part, they will learn a great deal about what it's like to be a young person growing up in Canada. In a world that is growing ever more connected, they will discover as much about the similarities they share with each other as the very obvious differences. Of course, there will also be the legacy of a school facility, but, if my experience of international service projects is anything to go by, it will be the relationships that are built that will truly last.
Learning that service is not just about giving but also benefiting is an important lesson. Too often we imagine that service must be selfless, that it has to be a bit uncomfortable to be of any worth and that it shouldn't be seen as enjoyable. I would suggest that the opposite is true. Service is only really effective when everyone involved feels they're getting something out of the experience; when there is uncontrollable joy and laughter rather than wandering around wearing a hair shirt; when good is done with people rather than to them.
I am sure that this will be the case with Madagascar 2012. I look forward to hearing some wonderful stories after the expedition has been completed.