Looking Back on our Exciting Brigade Season

By Michelle Menclewicz, Director of Student Affairs

Interested in starting a club? Questions about our programs and how to get involved? Contact her: michelle@globalbrigades.org.

Leave it to the student leaders of Global Brigades to redefine the meaning of spring break. This spring season over 800 students from the US, Canada, UK and Ireland went on brigades in Panama and Honduras. It’s humbling to witness more and more students choosing to go to developing countries to help people and implement projects during their vacation instead of going to the beach — luckily, they still got the chance to experience hot, tropical Central American weather.

So what exactly did the students do? The numbers speak for themselves:

DIRECT BENEFICIARIES:

  • 16,771 patients were provided with medical care
  • 104 people benefited by public health projects
  • 125 homes benefited by water projects
  • 28 new savings accounts and 32 potential new borrowers
  • 50 members benefiting from a new sustainable structure helping their business
  • 50 members provided with legal stability
  • 200 members consulted on improving the efficiency and profitability of their business

PROJECTS:

  • 69 Public Health projects were completed which includes pilas, hydraulic latrines, eco-stoves, and cement floors
  • 1 complete dam, 3.2 km of conduction line, 6 km of distribution network, will now have 60gal.min of water entering the storage tanks during dry season

INVESTMENTS:

  • $13,500 invested in community businesses
  • $3,453 invested in community banks
  • $1,900 invested in building materials
  • $1,900 invested in legal contracts and workshops

Just in case you haven’t done the math that is a total of 17,360 community members living in poverty who benefited from the projects led by student groups.

Students literally broke ground, set foundations, built sustainable structures, established businesses and provided financial stability. They used their knowledge, skills and sweat to make a difference all in ONE WEEK! One week that is usually associated with beach relaxation but can now be associated with global change. Sabrina from Indiana stated, “Global Water Brigades was an experience that not only changed my life but allowed me to realize that I, too, was capable of making extraordinary changes in the world around me.”

Beyond the success measured in these numbers, this season was marked by the beginning of a brand new program and technological improvements. This past year Global Brigades formed a strong partnership with FUNDER, a microfinance organization Honduras, to pioneer a program with a mission to provide financial assistance to men, women and children who never had the opportunity before. Microfinance Brigades fits perfectly in the holistic model of Global Brigades and complements the other programs by ensuring communities have the resources necessary to be able to expand upon and maintain the Public Health and Water projects. Along with establishing new sustainable programs, Global Brigades is always looking to improve existing programs. Medical and Dental brigades finally established a new data informatics system to address the crucial need of tracking patient records. Now GB can just insert one ID number and have a complete history of the patients who attend brigades. Most importantly, GB can now measure the success of the public health and water projects. In Panama, business brigade students on one particular farm were able to dramatically impact the business by increasing the farm’s chicken selling capacity by 300%. Another coffee farm is now selling their coffee at double the price and law brigades helped them gain ownership of their land. More projects like these have been successfully implemented by students in this one month.
What is always awe-inspiring about each brigade is that this was driven by youth, by powerful individuals and by powerful individuals who worked together!! Does Global Brigades consider this a success? Of course! However, Global Brigades is constantly growing, changing and reaching higher to accomplish more! Simply put, there is more that can be done! So now I ask YOU a question. What if every student that pays to go on a spring break trip works on a development project instead? What if every student that ends up on the beach for the week hoping to get a golden tan spends time with communities in Panama and Honduras and provides them with financial and legal empowerment, provides clean water and access to their own latrines, cement floors and stoves? What if every student that has worked on a project inspired their friends, peers and colleagues to do the same? Just a thought…

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