We are looking at overseas study programs for 16 y.o. DD for next summer (July and August 2013). She is interested in opportunities in Africa and Central America. Most of the programs we've considered combine academic work with volunteer opportunities. Depending on the program she chooses, she would get high school credits in History or English or Biology or Environmental Science or Cultural and Civics Studies etc. The students also enjoy recreational activities like visiting historic sites, hiking and camping, going on safari, snorkeling or whitewater rafting or whatever else is available in the area they are visiting. It all sounds fantastic and I'm very excited for her.
One concern is the volunteer component of the program. The opportunities mentioned to us include
-helping to build schools
-helping local students with their studies, particularly English language studies
-micro-loans and small business development
I have some concerns about aid and development work because I dislike the "white knight" attitude that is sometimes perpetuated when starry-eyed idealistic people parachute into cultures, economies and political situations that they don't really understand. She doesn't want to participate in something that is little more than a "feel-good" exercise to massage egos. We strongly believe, however, that aid and development are important and worthwhile, when done carefully.
So I'm seeking advice from anyone who may have experience with these kinds of student volunteer programs. What worked, what was beneficial for both the local communities and the visiting students, what should she watch out for? For those who don't have any experience, I'd also welcome input on questions to ask the program administrators as we do our research.
Thanks in advance!