Exploring the learning and literacy dimensions of local volunteering by youths and adults in the Philippines: an ethnographic study

Millora, Christopher (2020) Exploring the learning and literacy dimensions of local volunteering by youths and adults in the Philippines: an ethnographic study. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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My thesis seeks to investigate the learning and literacy dimensions of local volunteering and contributes to the limited research on the experiences of volunteers who, themselves, come from so-called vulnerable communities. Moving beyond the dominant examination of learning and literacy as skills that volunteers bring to and later gain through volunteering, I use ‘development as discourse’ (Escobar 1995), ‘learning through communities of practice’ (Wenger 1998) and ‘literacy as social practice’ (Street 1984) as conceptual lenses to explore how volunteers engage with learning and literacy in the everyday – including how this engagement shapes their identities, discourses, and power dynamics.

I conducted an 11-month ethnographic study with two volunteer groups in the Philippines: an NGO driven by youths living with HIV, gay men and transwomen advocating for HIV/AIDS awareness; and an informal settlers’ association fighting for land tenure led by landless volunteers who were evicted from their home of over seven decades.

My study reveals that volunteer groups can be understood as constructed learning spaces that not only ‘contain’ but also shape and/or are shaped by diverse and, at times, conflicting learning and literacy practices. Volunteers’ experiences were influenced by the broader development sector that sometimes exacerbated power inequalities within the groups – a process partly mediated by text. Volunteers learned to work in certain bureaucratic ways which could be in tension with their understandings of volunteering as informal helping and solidarity. Volunteering offered a means to challenge ascribed identities, often based on deficits around their assumed vulnerabilities. However, volunteers still vacillated between identifying as beneficiaries who receive and as volunteers who give.

Contributing new insights into the links between volunteering, learning and literacy, my thesis encourages academics, policy-makers, and planners to challenge dominant assumptions around the kind(s) of learning and development that volunteering can facilitate and for whom.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Education and Lifelong Learning
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2021 10:24
Last Modified: 14 Dec 2021 10:24
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/82667


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