As we near the end of 2020, I wanted to take a brief moment to reflect on this year, the impact it has had on the work that TBF is doing, and what we are doing to prepare for a post-pandemic world, specifically in the realm of our service trips. The pandemic and the subsequent economic downturn have been devastating on the communities where TBF works. Concurrently, TBF was forced to cancel all of its service learning programming, and has had to pivot towards other means of partnering with the communities that we work with in this difficult time with a fraction of the funds.
While this transition has been challenging for TBF and the communities that we collaborate with, it has provided TBF with some space to re-envision our service programs. For many years, I have been uncomfortable with the structure and impact of our service trips. Just to name it, while our service trips provide many tangible benefits to the communities we work in and to our program participants, there are less tangible, but significant, negative impacts of consistently bringing predominantly white groups of volunteers to more vulnerable communities of color over time to do unskilled manual labor. While the positive impacts on communities and participants are easy to quantify, the long-term impact of the role of white supremacy and white saviorism in our service programs is far more difficult to quantify.
We have created a diverse, highly skilled and driven TBF service program task force made up of leaders in the field of equity, inclusion, and anti-racist work, international service learning and non-profits, as well as TBF staff and board members. The knowledge, years and diversity of lived and professional experience, and commitment to this work in our task force is staggering and I am grateful for their work with TBF. This task force is charged with exploring the true impact of our service programs, and making recommendations to the board for how we can re-envision our service programs moving forward so that they have maximum positive community and participant impact. It is my sincere hope that when we begin running our post pandemic service programs, that we will do this piece better than anyone, and that our programs will serve as THE model for antiracist international service programming.
Thanks to everyone for your continued commitment to and work with TBF. Stay tuned for what these changes will look like in practice!
Founder & Board President,