This past May, a group of students from Temple University Global Brigades traveled to Honduras to help develop underprivileged communities. This year, the group will embark on a journey to a different country and strive to make similar impacts.
The program is a volunteer, student-led study abroad association. The group stems from a larger organization, Global Brigades, which is a global, student-led collective with branches at universities in multiple countries.
Temple Global Brigades focuses on 10 disciplines: public health, agriculture, law, microfinance, dental, business, engineering, environmental, medical and water. Its main goal is to help communities around the world become more self-sufficient, livable environments.
“Global Brigades tries to focus on each different aspect, so each community that we work on builds this sort of holistic environment,” said Michelle Kim, a senior therapeutic recreation major and a member of Global Brigades.
Kim’s first experience working with Temple University Global Brigades was this past May on the trip to Honduras.
Temple Global Brigades has plans to travel to underserved communities in Nicaragua, Ghana, Panama City and Honduras. The group is unsure of where they will go this summer, but they have begun fundraising for the trip already.
Veronica Hopkins interned with Global Brigades two summers ago in Nicaragua.
“I think what I get out of it and what I like about the organization is empowering communities, but at the same time [the organization] also empowers us to help other people, not just abroad but in our own community as well,” Kim said.
Temple Global Brigades has no official coordinator. The group arrives on location and works with community members to figure out how the location can be improved, and projects are completely led by students.
“I remember we had a meeting with the water sanitation committee of the community we were working in, and we were all just getting to know each other,” Kim said. “They were telling us where they came from and how what we were doing was impacting their lives and what a big change we were making for them.”
The group is very labor intensive. Kim said the missions can include physical activities like digging trenches but the end result makes the effort worthwhile for group members.
While there, Hopkins lived in a house in Nicaragua with a family that had three daughters, whom she got to know very well throughout the course of the trip.
“They loved arts and crafts, so we were able to buy them markers and paper and they would draw pictures of us,” Hopkins said.
Members of the organization are only asked to attend weekly meetings, and there is no physical training ahead of time. At the meetings, members learn about various cultures and learn Spanish.
Both Hopkins and Kim said that they experienced many rewarding moments while on their trip.
“One day we came back to the house we were staying in, and one of the little girls was taking a shower in the shower that we built for the family. So that was really nice,” Hopkins said.
“Something that was really nice to see was towards the end of the trip, seeing one of the little boys from the elementary school we used to stop at every day, turn on a faucet with running water. That was a really special moment,” Kim said.
Last year, when traveling to Honduras, the group had 17 students working in the water discipline and 15 in the public health discipline and Kim and Hopkins said a lot of new students inquired about Temple Global Brigades while at the student organization fair on Sept. 10.
“Not only are we empowering the communities abroad and not only are we impacting their lives, I think as volunteers we get so much out of it and learn so much from the experience and the preparation leading up to the trip,” Kim said.
Julia Chiango can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org