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Improving health with Global Brigades

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In keeping with the Jesuit mission, Global Brigades is crossing borders to serve the less fortunate. Over winter break, the Saint Louis University chapter of Global Brigades sent members to Ghana, Honduras and Panama in efforts to help build and improve the infrastructure in rural communities with an aim for improving overall health.

Global Brigades  Inc. is non-profit service organization for students that is divided into nine different focuses: architecture, business, dental, environmental, law, medical, micro-finance, public health and water.

According to Monica Kao, the president of Global Brigades at SLU, “Together, [the different programs] make up a holistic approach to health that’s more sustainable that the efforts of any of these disciplines acting alone.”

In one way or another, each of those brigades affect health and are important to building infrastructure. This past trip was able to send six groups out to different communities. Fourteen students from the Global Medical Brigades spent ten days in Ghana. “[It] was…one of the very first U.S. groups that Global Brigades had ever brought there,” said Kao, who had been on the trip.

Seventy-six health professionals, faculty and students were sent to Honduras as part of the Global Medical, Global Dental, Public Health and Global Water Brigades. Finally, eight students went with the Global Environment Brigades to Panama, which was the first time SLU sent a brigade to help with the environment, and the first trip SLU’s chapter has been involved with in Panama.

The populations targeted in these countries by the Brigades are chosen from the Global Brigade’s in-country research teams who evaluate the countries and communities. Kao explained that they look at“factors such as safety, political stability, health and economic need, existing infrastructure and access to an established NGO network.” One aspect the group really looks for is a community that is willing to accept their help and keep working towards improving their health.

Sustainability is highly emphasized. “The thing that really sets Global Brigades apart from other service organizations and NGOs is its commitment to sustainability,” said Kao. “Each brigade is only in-country for anywhere between seven to 10 days, but the work that we do through Global Brigades goes on year-round.”

The vision for this program is “to improve equality of life, by igniting the largest student-led social responsibility movement on the planet,” according Global Brigades’ website. Currently at SLU, there are only six different brigades but Kao is hopeful for growth.

“Many of our students tend to be those studying the health sciences or other related majors,” she said “but we hope to attract many more service-oriented individuals from the business and law schools once our business, micro-finance and law brigades have been recognized by the University.”

Although there are no trips coming up, there are plenty of events the organization is hoping to bring to campus to raise awareness and create more interest for all nine Brigades.

“This year, we’re directing some of our best efforts towards fundraising for Global Brigades’ new Campus for Holistic Development in Ghana,” said Kao. SLU’s chapter would like students to look for upcoming fundraisers, including one club event a semester, guest speakers and other events.

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