Since 2004, Global Brigades has mobilized tens of thousands of university students and professionals through skill-based programs that work in partnership with community members to improve quality of life in under-resourced regions while respecting local culture. Our vision is to improve equality of life by igniting the largest student-led social responsibility movement on the planet. Global Brigades empowers volunteers and under-resourced communities to resolve global health and economic disparities and inspire all involved to collaboratively work towards an equal world.
OUR HOLISTIC MODEL COLLECTIVELY IMPLEMENTS HEALTH, ECONOMIC AND EDUCATION INITIATIVES
to strategically meet a community’s development goals. We prepare, deliver and follow-up with ten unique programs - Architecture, Medical, Dental, Water, Public Health, Business, Microfinance, Engineering, Environmental and Human Rights - conducted in collaboration with community members, volunteers and local technicians. It is a global development theory and methodology that suggests that sustainable change can be accomplished when all of these aspects are improved together.
WHILE I AM ONLY A SMALL PORTION OF THIS ORGANIZATION,
my passion for global health has led me to play several roles in this movement. I have participated in a mobile clinic in Honduras and Panama providing healthcare to a community hours away from any kind of healthcare facility - distributing hygiene packs, shadowing doctors, sorting medicine and collecting patient information. I spent a month in Egyankwa, Ghana researching different aspects of their healthcare and living conditions. I have now been living in Northern Nicaragua for the past eight months managing worldwide sustainable development and global health projects, joining medical clinics and working to improve different aspects of the organization. Each experience has varied, yet the challenge is recurring: lack of clean water and infrastructure leading to waterborne diseases and consequently economic distress.
IN HONDURAS THERE IS LITTLE TO NO INFRASTRUCTURE,
with many households missing roofs or floors. Currently, more than half of the population lives in poverty with 40% lacking access to clean water. The literacy rate in rural communities is 50% and children finish school, on average, by the age of nine.
In the communities there is little to no electricity or hygiene measures. As a volunteer I’d observe cases of parasites and bacterial infections flowing in each clinic day. I would then run from the makeshift ‘pharmacy’ - suitcases overflowing with medications - in the 3rd grade classroom to consult in homeroom to make sure everyone had the necessary resources. It was exhausting. However, not as much as the farmer that walked three hours with an infected and improperly healed fracture just to have a check-up. He had a dreadful journey just to have access to basic hygiene. Priorities are put into perspective when disparity is prevalent.
UNFORTUNATELY, DISPARITY IS WORLDWIDE.
Indigenous tribes in Panama are marginalized by the government and forced to live in areas where flooding is common and clean water is scarce. Pit latrines are present in some communities but due to heavy rainfall, overflow causes waste to penetrate the ground, ending up in crops and water sources.
Consequently, open-defecation is a major sanitary problem in the Darien. Global Brigades’ volunteers alongside local staff and community members have slowly tackled this problem by constructing compost latrines that turn waste into fertilizer for crops - in the hopes of ending open-defecation and increasing overall hygiene and health.
IN GHANA, THE NATIONAL ECONOMY HAS GROWN
and is on its way to meet the Millennium Development goal of halving extreme poverty by next year - 2015. Regrettably, the distribution of these benefits throughout Ghanian society - especially in rural settings - remains stagnant. I worked closely with a low-income family to navigate the local health services; spending over eight hours at the local hospital for a 20-minute check-up, only to be referred to the hospital in Accra (4.5 hours away). Ghanaian health insurance is less than $10/year but there is little to no access to healthcare centers with adequate staff or resources.
TRAVELING TO HONDURAS, PANAMA AND GHANA HAS BEEN AN INCREDIBLE EXPERIENCE WITH MANY REALIZATIONS.
My priorities and perspective on human rights has shifted dramatically. The right to health is the social, cultural and economic right to a universal minimum standard of health to which everyone is entitled. Access to hygiene resources is a basic right and the foundation to personal and public health. People in developed nations - including myself - take this right for granted. This right leads us to have a socially an economically successful life. Living in the small town of Esteli, in the second poorest country in the Americas, with a per capita GDP of just $2,698, has vastly improved my appreciation and necessity for this right. While lacking running water in the office and frequently running out of water and electricity in the house may seem frustrating, the existence of open-defecation, waterborne diseases, and no access to clean water at all, makes missing a shower seem very inconsequential. Think about this the next time you have a running toilet, toilet paper and soap to maintain your hygiene.