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Module 4: Building Relationships

Global Partners Mission Statement: To develop long-term, sustainable relationships and community-to-community partnerships that focus on healthcare, education, and community development.

Key Concepts:

  • Building strong relationships is a key component to the Global Partners mission
  • Throughout your experience, building relationships with yourself, your team, your host community, and the environment should be emphasized
  • Understanding the Caritas theory for caring can help foster the previously mentioned relationships

Why are relationships important? Strong relationships are the building block of a partnership and a cornerstone of Global Partners Mission.

As a volunteer, who should I focus on building relationships with?

  1. Yourself: Volunteering with Global Partners will most likely prove to be a memorable learning experience. You might find yourself outside of your comfort zone, challenged physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. These are important emotions to acknowledge before, during, and after an experience. Some individuals have kept journals of their experience and the emotions that occurred throughout the process. This can be a beneficial way to record your thoughts not only for the memories, but also for the interpersonal growth you might experience from this process.
  2. Your team: Your experience will consist of preparation meetings, plenty of time together with your teammates during travel and in the host community, as well as follow up meetings after the experience is complete. It is likely that you will form a unique bond with your team after sharing so many experiences together. It is important to keep an open relationship with your team to help you through all of the emotions you will experience throughout the process. It is important to stay connected after the experience so you can share your experiences, revelations, and work through reverse culture shock together. Chances are, you will be a part of a team that has a variety of skill sets. "Recognizing and acknowledging diversity within a group, which is often as great as that between groups, is a major part of learning and connecting" (Kavanaugh et al, 1999).
  3. Your host community: Building relationships with your host community is the key to a successful partnership. The article "The Cost of Short Term Missions" by Jo Ann Van Engen (2000) suggests that we need to ask each other “What is the purpose of this experience? Are we going through the motions of helping the poor (others) so we can congratulate ourselves afterwards? Or are we seeking to understand the lives of third-world people - to recognize and support their strengths and to try to understand the problems they face and our role in them? Are we ethnocentrically treating the people of the third-world as tragic objects to be rescued—or as equals to walk with and learn from?” The concept of a mutually beneficial relationship cannot be stressed enough. It is important to learn as much as you can about the history and culture of your host community before you arrive. Learn what the challenges of that community are; speak with previous volunteers who have visited the community. If you are working on a project together, ask the host community members to teach you their way of completing a task. If you have a skill, ask them if they would like to learn it.

    John Pouparprt, MPA, and Dr. John Red Horse, PhD, created a document titled “How to Work Effectively with American Indians” and suggests three key principles that form the basis for understanding how to create cooperative relationships with American Indians. The three key principles are building trust, forming relationships, and assuring participation. Building trust is of utmost importance because some American Indians have had negative past experiences with research projects, policies, and programs. It is important to build relationships with the Indian community in order to have open discussions to determine the communities needs. Assuring participation is also important because "A thin line exists between working 'with' and working 'for' American Indians; they are sensitive to initiatives developed without their participation or input" (Pouparprt & Red Horse, 2012). Although this document is directed toward an audience of working with American Indians, many of the principles and suggestions can be generalized for other cultures as well.
  4. Your environment: Building a relationship with your environment is important for a successful experience. The host communities that we visit have strong relationships with the environment, and as a sign of respect, it is important that you prioritize a relationship with the environment as well. An article titled "Connecting and Becoming Culturally Competent: A Lakota Example" (Kavanaugh et. al, 1999) states "The land is important to Lakota people. Exploring and getting to know the reservation, walking the grasslands, and experiencing the open sky help one relate to the physical environment."

    One way to connect with the environment is to be aware of your ecological footprint. There is a quiz that can determine the amount of land and ocean area needed to sustain our consumption patterns. The reason this is important is because the more we use, the more land we are taking from ourselves and others (our host communities). Also be aware of what will happen to things we leave behind-plastic bags, wrapping, toys, with small parts, etc.

How can I nurture and strengthen those relationships?

Embracing and practicing with Caritas Processes in mind can help develop relationships with yourself, your co-workers, the host community members, and the environment.

What is Caritas?

Cartitas is "the science and art of caring, which helps create a culture of healing for all. Caritas helps us take care of our patients and families, ourselves, our colleagues, and our environment. A healing environment generates positive energy, compassion and enhances the ability to care. It speaks to the heart of who we are as human beings, not ONLY human doings. Caritas also adds value and meaning to our everyday work" (Caritas update PowerPoint, Liz Arnold, 3/30/2012)

Dr. Jean Watson’s Human Caring Theory - Ten Caritas Processes

  1. Practice loving kindness with self and others. This can be in the form of reflective practice; including self-care and caring about people and the environment.
  2. Inspire faith and hope. This is open to interpretation; this can be interpreted as spiritual or not. Spirituality can be defined as what gives our own life purpose. It is also important to honor the other's belief system to allow them to feel his/her own sense of faith/hope.
  3. Nurture individual beliefs. Value similarities and differences in one another. This is about cultivating our own spiritual practices so as to be more responsive to others. Tasks become caring/healing interactions as well as an opportunity for self-reflection.
  4. Develop helping, trusting, caring relationships. Have an authentic presence; be non-judgmental. Practice dignity, respect, compassion, and care for yourself and others.
  5. Forgive and accept positive and negative feelings. Don't turn off something said or done, even if you don't like it. This allows for uncertainty and unknown; encourage story-telling; this can help others deal with negative feelings and acknowledges healing as an inner journey.
  6. Creative and caring solution seeking. Set aside preconceived agendas. Use all ways of gathering information/understanding/knowing to help create solutions.
  7. Engage in genuine teaching-learning experiences. Embrace the “learner” role; allow a moment to unfold. Actively listen; learn from others; helps others understand.
  8. Co-create a healing environment. Working and being with someone versus 'doing' to someone. The environment is inner (inside us, inside others) and outer (physical); mind, body, spirit.
  9. Assist with basic physical, emotional, and spiritual human needs. Respect individual and unique needs.
  10. Allow for miracles. Be open to something bigger than our confined knowledge base. Show respect for those things that have meaning to others.

Take Home Message:

  1. Taking time to process your feelings and emotions before, during, and after an experience can help with interpersonal growth
  2. Involving the host community in projects is integral to building trusting relationships
  3. Practicing Caritas Processes can help bring caring back into human encounters


Kavanaugh, K., Absalom, K., Beil, W., & Schliessmann, L. (1999). Connecting and becoming culturally competent: a Lakota example. Advances in Nursing Science, 21(3), 9-31.

Poupaprt, J., & Red Horse, J. (2012). To build a bridge-working with American Indian communities. American Indian Policy Center, 35-38.

Van Engen, J. (2000). The cost of short term missions. The Other Side, January & February 2000.

Watson Caring Science. (2013). Jean Watson’s Caritas processes. Retrieved from:

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