The developing role of the SIA Trip Leader

An audible excited chatter can be heard across the small Wilfrid Laurier University lecture room. As a group of young Canadians reminisce about their experience with SIA over the 2011 summer, and discuss the future. These are not the university students who have no idea what to expect when they sign up to travel with SIA. This group is different, they know the joy of participating on an SIA program and they are ready to guide the next group of SIA participants. These are the 2012 SIA Trip Leaders, a group of determined, passionate individuals, who make up the backbone of every SIA international program. They are the first to wake and the last to sleep; and they pride themselves on being able to interact with and provide the support their participants need. They are part of a developing role, the SIA Trip Leader, which has helped us at SIA to provide a better experience for everyone involved.

Over the past few years the role of Trip Leader (formerly Peer Trip Leaders and Trip Leader Assistants) has developed. Trip leaders, a dynamic, intelligent, and passionate group of individuals, have a great feeling of responsibility for the participants’ experience, and their growing role reflects this. While in Canada, Trip Leaders are the voice of SIA at the individual universities. They arrange promotions, attend school events, prepare pre-departure activities and develop program objectives. While in-country, they lead the participants; facilitate evening discussions, arrange volunteer placements, and are the first point of contact for the participants. Trip leaders have embraced the role and are comfortable with their growing responsibility. A 2011 trip leader, Jennifer proudly explains she felt that the Trip Leaders were “the leaders of the trip with SIA Program Coordinators, playing a behind the scene role”.

With the added responsibility come added challenges and greater time needed to prepare for the experience. Trip Leaders arrange regular meetings prior to departure, are required to set aside weekends to participate in SIA training weekends and now found themselves in responsible positions in Peru coordinating such campaigns as dental and health. This added responsibility has only made the role more beneficial.

Christie (2011 Trip Leader) acknowledged that taking “the (rather large) step from participant to leader was challenging.

However, she was delighted as “it was an opportunity of a lifetime that I will never forget.”

We are at SIA are very excited about the developing role as it is allowing SIA to reach out to help more people. In the 2012 year SIA plans to run six programs, three more programs than last year.
With an increase in programs the role of trip leader continues to evolve. This year’s team of Trip Leaders are eager and ready for their experience, but they are cognizant of the growing responsibility they will perform. One 2012 leader indicating that they are aware of “all the responsibilities” (2012 Trip Leader) but they embrace them with “excitement”!

They know that much like Christie and other past leaders the experience is sure to be “an opportunity of a lifetime” that they will “never forget”!

SIA thanks 2011 Trip Leaders for their amazing work!

Congratulations to SIA 2012 Trip Leaders!

L Shuttleworth

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