Foundational Principles of the Humanist Service Corps

Rely on Local Expertise

The Humanist Service Corps approach emphasizes close collaboration with a grassroots partner organization to achieve effective and culturally responsible change.

The HSC volunteers work to increase the capacity of the partner organizations to provide direct services. This enables volunteers to:

  • benefit from native expertise
  • achieve meaningful positive impacts in a relatively short period of time
  • contribute to lasting change by imparting skills and knowledge to local staff

Shun the Spotlight in the Community

HSC minimizes the visibility of its volunteers and maximizes the visibility of its partner organizations, because the face of change should always be a local one. The idea that sustainable change comes from the community is both revolutionary and empowering, because it counters centuries of colonial and internalized racism.

Tell the Story Responsibly

Humanist Service Corps: We are strongHSC must build a strong platform for international storytelling to raise awareness about the work HSC and its partners are doing. Telling this story responsibly means letting the words and ideas of the locals speak for themselves. It means never exploiting images or stories of suffering in order to raise money for the program, and it means focusing on images and stories of resilience and happiness, not just hardship.

HSC has the responsibility to counteract the unrelenting hardship narrative that the media and other organizations often tell about the places where HSC works. Such monolithic storytelling is irresponsible and harmful. For more on the danger of a single story, see Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED talk.

Build Local Capacity

HSC volunteers work to increase the capacity of grassroots organizations to provide direct services; they don't provide direct services themselves. You will never see an HSC volunteer doing a job a local could do (or be trained and employed to do). Our humanism demands that we not heighten existing skills gaps or reinforce postcolonial narratives casting outsiders as capable and locals as needy.

The Humanist Service Corps aims to make itself redundant in every community it enters.

Learn and Listen First

In order for HSC volunteers to make a positive impact where they work, they first must learn about the cultural context of the partner organizations’ work. Otherwise, volunteers cannot truly understand the problem their local colleagues are attempting to address, and are unable to collaborate effectively with them.

Promote Well-Being and Fulfilment

A humanist volunteering experience should be safe and fulfilling for the volunteer. The Humanist Service Corps provides pre-service training and orientation to prepare volunteers for their transition and work. During service, HSC staff designs further training to ensure that volunteers can get the most out of their experience and maximize their effectiveness.

Humanist Service Corps places volunteers as a team. The volunteers contribute to each other’s growth and respond to each other’s needs.

Celebrate Diversity

Humanist Service Corps Volunteer Jude with young child

The Humanist Service Corps program is guided by the principles and aspirations of humanism, but our approach is one that many non-humanists have arrived at from other philosophical starting points.

HSC places emphasis on the skills the volunteers bring to the program rather than the experience the program provides to the volunteer. We select our volunteers based on their professional skills, interpersonal skills, cultural competencies, and grit, not whether they identify as humanists.

The Humanist Service Corps does not discriminate on the basis of race, age, religion, national or ethnic origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity/expression.

HSC demonstrates its commitment to diversity and culturally responsible service by providing living stipends to volunteers and by covering program-related costs. This ensures that this challenging and rewarding opportunity is open to volunteers from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds.


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