NGO provides College Students with opportunity for Humanitarian Work


By Alex Dmuchovsky

Global Brigades, a non-profit organization established in 2004, is making waves in the humanitarian community. Initially focused on providing health services for under-resourced areas in Central America, the non-governmental organization (NGO) has expanded to provide services in 9 different “brigades.” Global Brigades (GB) functions via the “Holistic Model,” which seeks to: “collectively implement health, economic, and education initiatives to strategically meet a community’s development goals.”

The organization allows university students to set up chapters at their respective institutions, and then lays the infrastructure to allow chapters to travel, lodge, and volunteer in a country of their choosing. Sanitary restrooms, water systems, medical services, and “re”-forestation are just a few of the projects that volunteers undertake.

One of the primary objectives of the organization is to accomplish community goal’s in cooperation with community members. The idea is that local residents feel that they’ve meaningfully contributed to their communities, and that the service projects are of immediate and long-lasting value to them. For example, the NGO’s upper administration will hire local technicians (carpenters, construction workers, plumbers, etc.) that will then guide the student volunteers in accomplishing a task. Quoted from the organization’s website: “Without volunteers contributing time and donations, the in-country teams and community members would not have the resources to perpetuate the projects and the community’s request for extra hands and perspective would not be met.”


In addition to an approach with humility, Global Brigades designs its programs to maximize their sustainability. Indefinite service in one area is neither practical nor fair to other communities, so each initiative is undertaken with the idea that at some point the community can perpetuate the work without the help of a brigade. For example, the “Medical Brigade” provides basic health care to an area, but it also elects and educates community leaders for roles liken to that of nurses, or other basic health providers (i.e., EMT’s).

Volunteer work is not the only way GB gives back to countries in need. The NGO has set up “Institutes” within each region, which seek to improve the preparation of volunteers, develop members’ professional experience, and improve access to higher education in the countries Global Brigades supports.

The organization is made up of 10 countries, with 6 volunteer-sending countries and 4 partner countries (Ghana, Honduras, Nicaragua, & Panama). From these volunteer countries, GB has facilitated the service of about 6,100 volunteers, and has helped over 350,000 people.

For a detailed annual report:



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