As a freshman at Marquette, Cassie Laibly was shocked by what she saw when she traveled to Panama with Global Brigades.
“Hundreds of patients lined up to see the doctors and dentists we shadowed; no running water and many locals sick from a parasite in the water they were drinking,” the Biomedical Sciences major recalled. ”But not a single person complained. They were all so welcoming and such grateful people.”
Five months later, Laibly found herself back in that same Panamanian village. This time, her shock turned to awe. The children she previously met greeted her, not with hellos, but with big smiles and the chorus to the song Laibly had taught them about proper dental care.
“They had been brushing and were so proud to show me their smiles and what they had learned,” she said. “That’s why I got involved with Global Brigades. We don’t just give people the proverbial fish or teach them how to catch it. Global Brigades empowers communities by showing them how to make rods and build boats so they can fish long after we’ve left.”
Global Brigades is the largest student-funded humanitarian organization in the world and Laibly is one of 83,000-plus students who’ve participated in Global Brigades over the nonprofit’s 15-year history.
“Most study some form of health care, engineering or business specialty area,” said Dr. Shital Vora, Global Brigades CEO and Co-Founder, who helped create the nonprofit as an undergraduate Physical Therapy student in 2003. “But we’ve had participants from almost every major, from colleges of all sizes, and even high schools and middle schools.”
Vora and her leadership team recently made an organization-saving pivot to virtual programming in the face of COVID-19. Now, Zoom – instead of airplanes – whisks students to Latin America, West Africa and Greece in real time. The program – called TeleBrigades – continues to bring hope to residents of resource-limited communities, while providing students with hands-on leadership and career-building skills via virtual experiential learning.
“And the best part,” Vora said. “Students are immersed in these communities and make a true impact for people living in poverty while never leaving their laptop, classroom or dorm.”
Laibly, who’s participated in multiple in-country Brigades, as well as a TeleBrigade, found both empowering. “The experiences were different, but I found both life changing,” the future health-care provider said. “In the TeleBrigade, we received a longer-lens view of Global Brigades’ entire holistic approach. In-country, I witnessed first-hand how a community can be empowered to action in multiple aspects of their lives by uniting with others to reach common goals.”
Since Global Brigades’ pivot to virtual learning in May, 152 schools have enrolled in TeleBrigades with more than 1,700 college students participating. In its decade-and-a-half history, Global Brigades’ student participants have raised more than $100 million in aid, which has provided 1.5 million patients with medical and dental treatment, established 106 community banks that provided more than 12,000 loans to local businesses and communities. Global Brigades has also installed 56 water systems, bringing clean, drinkable water to more than 32,000 people.
About Global Brigades
Dedicated to community-led sustainability by igniting the largest student-funded social responsibility movement on the planet, Global Brigades empowers under-resourced communities in Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama to resolve their health and economic disparities through multi-year projects. In-country staff members are the driving force behind program development, brigade coordination, community follow-up and impact measurement. In its 15-year history, Global Brigades has recruited 83,000-plus student participants, who’ve fundraised over $100 million in aid and participated in Medical Brigades, Water Brigades and Business Brigades, which support community-owned banks and provide business consulting and investment capital to microenterprises.
Global Brigades National College PR Intern