Students ate dishes originating from Nicaragua and Nepal—two locations GIVE travels to volunteer in communities abroad. Credit: Akayla Gardner | Lantern Reporter

On Tuesday evening, students arriving at Room 35 in Hitchcock Hall were met by the aromas of food from Nicaragua and Nepal two destinations of the international service organization Growth International Volunteer Excursion.

The Ohio State chapter of GIVE, which travels abroad to volunteer in underprivileged communities, hosted a global sustainability panel with three leaders from its headquarters in Seattle on a Skype call. They discussed the organization’s ability to increase social, economic and environmental sustainability around the world.

Hannah Isakowitz, chapter president and fourth-year in sociology, said people often think about environmental sustainability as crucial but GIVE also works to sustain global economies and relationships.

“Those three pillars of sustainability often pull in different directions, but GIVE’s goal is always to link those three things to make our projects as effective and impactful as possible,” Isakowitz said in an interview with The Lantern after the event.

Isakowitz said that GIVE focuses its work on English education, sustainable infrastructure and wildlife conservation in five destinations: Thailand, Laos, Tanzania, Nicaragua and Nepal.

Carly Schade, Ohio State alumna and global engagement specialist, said GIVE uses a method called “asset-based community development” to build upon the existing strengths of the communities they serve and form lasting relationships.

The methodology addresses controversies with “voluntourism,” which is often criticized for misunderstanding the needs of communities abroad and not creating lasting change.

“Throughout every aspect of the trip, we expect [volunteers] to dress respectfully and respect the culture and the customs and learn the language, even if it’s just ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank you,’” Schade said.

Dan Trevor, director of international operations, said he recognizes that flying halfway across the world is one of the fastest ways to put a lot of carbon in the atmosphere, but it’s worth the change volunteers can bring.

“We’re all going to have a carbon footprint, there’s simply no way around that, but there are a lot of great ways for [everyone] to offset that carbon,” Trevor said. “Make sure your footprint is not nearly as big as your handprint.”

Trevor said GIVE donates a portion of money from every Thailand volunteer’s fees to the Chiang Mai University Forest Restoration and Research Unit, which regenerates damaged forests and habitats in northern Thailand.

Justin Monte, a fourth-year in computer science and chapter vice president, said GIVE has more than 40 Ohio State students going on trips to one of its destinations this year.

The panel was the only event to focus on global sustainability of the several events happening this week as a part of the university’s Time For Change Week, focused on promoting responsibility in environmental and community environments.

“We don’t need one person doing sustainability perfectly, we need a ton of people doing it imperfectly. That’s my motto … you don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to be mindful,” Isakowitz said. “That’s really what I hope people take out of this entire week is those changes they can make.”