Stage 1


Learning objective 1

You have signed up to this course because you have spent some time overseas in the global south. You have returned to your home community and you would like to incorporate what you have learned while on placement into your life and community.

The main aim of stage 1 is to provide you with a space to reflect on your overseas experience and how it impacted on how you see the world. During this stage you will have space and a framework to explore and reflect on your story. Leaving stage 1 you will have a clearer idea of key moments and people that have impacted you on your journey so far.

Why is reflection important?

This section of the course looks at your experience as a volunteer. It is very important that you reflect on the experiences that you have had to date. This will help you understand key learning and why you are moving in the direction you are in life. In turn this will enable you to participate as an active global citizen, not just in the short term through action projects, but also long-term throughout your life.

Learning cycle[1397]

This learning cycle was developed by David Kolb. It is a useful framework for our reflection.  It helps us to begin to make sense of  of our overseas experience and how we can take it forward now that we have returned home from our placement.

It begins with a concrete experience. In your case this will be working or volunteering in the global south. What were the high and low points? What parts of the experience did you enjoy? What did you get the most out of, what did you struggle with, why?

What did you learn during this experience? New skills, a new way of looking at the world, some things about yourself? How have you changed as a person as a result of this experience?

The next stage is about integrating the learning. How can you use what you have learned in your daily life? How can you take the experience of working overseas back to your home community?

We invite you to start your reflection by opening a word document or getting a journal that you can write in.  You can use this throughout the course, to help you complete the various sections

The Hero’s Journey


The hero’s journey is a framework devised by Joseph Campbell (1949). Campbell discovered that stories in all cultures from the ancient up until modern day share a common theme. The hero takes a similar path in all of them: ‘the hero’s journey’. It outlines an adventure, a transformative experience, a journey that will determine change, learning and experience. It is not a coincidence that all culture and eras share common stories. The reason this happens is because it tells “our” story, which is a human one. Have a look at the videos below:



We want to be very clear about using this framework. It is an unfortunate reality that we in the global north sometime believe that we need to go to the global south to ‘save’ or to help the ‘other’ or  ‘less fortunate’. This is not the “hero” we are talking about here. The type of hero we are exploring here is us being our own personal heroes. .As Joseph Campbell said

“Be the hero in your own journey”

1) The ordinary world – The hero generally starts off in an environment they are not completely comfortable with or are perhaps comfortable but bored. They want something bigger, e.g. Dorothy in Kansas, Harry Potter in his cousin’s house. Was this the case for you? What made you want to work in development in the global south? What made you uncomfortable? Climate change, inequality, poverty, social justice, a desire to travel and see the world? At what point did you first feel a desire to work in the global south?

2) Call to adventure The adventure begins with a call: Luke Skywalker gets a message via R2D2 from princess Leia in Star Wars; Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games got her call when her sister Prim’s name is called from the ‘reaping bowl’. When did you get your call to adventure to go and work overseas? What form did the call come in? When did you feel “I have to do something”?

3) Refusal of the call – The hero very often fears changes and refuses the call. Like Simba in the Lion King who refused to go home and face Scar. Was there any stage before you travelled that you questioned your decision to go? Did you think “no, I can’t” or were you afraid? How did you overcome that fear?

4) Mentor – All great heroes have mentors. Someone older and wiser that passes on wisdom: Yoda for Luke in Star Wars; Mr Miyagi in the Karate Kid; Gandalf in The Lord Of The Rings or Dumbledore for Harry Potter. Who was a mentor for you during your journey?

5) Crossing the first threshold- The hero needs to cross a threshold from their ordinary world to the special world: Harry Potter goes to Hogwarts, Katniss Everdeen goes to the capital, Dorothy goes to the Oz; in Avatar they go to Pandora. When did you cross the threshold and the adventure really began?

6) Road of trials Being a hero is not easy. They face trials and tests and doubt themselves. Frodo is on his journey to destroy the ring in Lord of the Rings; Hercules and the 12 labours. What challenges did you need to overcome on your journey? For example, new foods, unfamiliar culture. What lessons did you learn that helped you on your journey?

7) Allies/Enemies – The hero meets friends along the way: Hans Solo in Star Wars, Hermione and Ron in Harry Potter. They also meet enemies: Darth Vader, Malfoy, the hero’s own self-doubts. How did you experience your new world? Who was on your side? Who were your friends along the way? Who were your enemies? Were you your own friend/ enemy?

8) The dark cave – There is a point in every story where the hero seems defeated: In Stars Wars, the Death Star; ‘The Games’ in the Hunger Games. What was the hardest or darkest point on your journey? The biggest test for you on your journey?

9) Death and rebirth – The hero often dies generally metaphorically but sometimes literally. They need to die in order to be reborn: Neo dies in the Matrix; Thor dies in the first movie; in Avatar, Jake Sully gives up being a human to become an alien avatar. What part of yourself did you leave behind because of this experience? What new parts of you were born because of this experience?

10) Revelation/ Transformation The hero is transformed due to their experience. Did you reflect on the learning from this experience? What insights did you gain? Did you have any revelations during your time overseas? Have you transformed because of your journey? How?

11) New gifts and abilities – The hero claims new skills or powers. Luke is able to use the force in Star Wars. Harry Potter becomes a great wizard. What new skills talents abilities have you gained from your journey?

12) The journey back home – The hero must return to the ordinary world. Often the hero returns home, and their community hasn’t changed but they have. This experience is different for each hero. For Frodo and Sam in the Lord of the Rings this was the case: Sam decides to stay and marry his love; Frodo feels he does not belong in the Shire anymore and leaves. Has your community changed? Have you changed due to your experience? How was the return home? Were you happy to return home? Has the transition been easy or difficult? What emotions have you experienced?

13) Share your giftsThe hero must now share their wisdom with their community, otherwise they risk becoming the villain in another story by keeping their gifts to themselves. Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, Luke Skywalk, the Buddha all shared their gifts with their community. Darth Vader, Voldemort and Lucifer tried to keep the power for themselves. How will you share you gifts with the community?

Discussion Questions

  • Do you see a link between your experience and the hero’s journey? How do these stages relate to your experiences?
  • Why did you decide to go overseas?
  • What impact did the experience have on you?
  • How can you use this experience in your life and community?

You are invited to do this activity in either a visual or a written way.

  1. Tell your hero’s journey using your own pictures or using Google images. You can copy and paste these into your word document
  2. Write a small paragraph and how it relates to you on each of the stages of the hero’s journey

As the last stage of the hero journey states, a hero needs to share what they have learned with their community. This is the aim of Stages 3 and stage 4 will explore how you can use your learning from overseas in your home community. However before we act it is important that we have an informed and critical view of the issues we are trying to deal with. This is what Stage 2 aims to help us to do.

“We are quite ordinary women and men, children and old people, that is to say, rebels, non-conformists, uncomfortable, dreamers.”  The Zapatistas


Further resources

The Hero with a Thousand Faces- Joseph Campbell 

Please leave a comment letting us know if you have completed this section  and where you are from.