Into the Panamanian Jungle

Just last week, immediately after finishing 15 months working with water projects in the Honduran mountains, I found myself several hours into the Panamanian rain forest on a bumpy dirt road. The humid heat and stunning natural beauty kept me awake and attentive in the car. As we made our way deeper into the jungle, we passed unreal views of the endless green hills, pristine waterfalls and monkeys! Finally, the road came to an end, the trees opened up and out of the jungle came several simple wooden structures and winding gravel paths that led into the forest. I knew right away that this would be the perfect location for the new Global Brigades university of sustainable development.

For the past several months, Global Brigades has been discussing the potential to create a university campus to teach the most forward-thinking theories and practices in the fields of international development and global health. In collaboration with EarthTrain (, an international nonprofit that aims to teach and empower the future leaders of the world in sustainable development, Global Brigades has begun developing a curriculum and itinerary for this new program. The curriculum, which will be designed by ex-Harvard Professor Glenn Adelson, will be supplemented by guest speakers from around the world representing the leading thought in the fields of global health, international business and micro-finance, ecology and global poverty. The program will be launched this December in Panama’s protected rain forest with a one-week pilot open to brigaders passionate about these issues.

The Global Brigades students and communities could benefit tremendously from this opportunity. In all of my studies as a university student, I never had a class that asked simple questions like “How can I help people?” or “What does sustainable development even look like?” I never got to hear stories from experienced development professionals about what works and what doesn’t in the real world. This is a huge gap in mainstream university education. Here we have the opportunity to fill this gap and get Global Brigades students into the Panamanian jungle to learn about the reality of development. Students will then bring new perspectives, new understandings and the wisdom of experienced professionals on brigades and into the rural communities of Honduras and Panama. This will improve the quality of the projects that Global Brigades does and prepare these students for futures in international development and global health.

The pilot program will begin December 26, 2009. Any interested students are encouraged to reach out to to learn more. You just never know what you might learn in the rainforest!


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