Canada spends more than $5-billion annually on international aid, but where does that money come from and where does it all go? As Canadians debate aid to countries like Haiti, a group of Mount A students will be traveling to Honduras, one of Central America’s poorest countries, to do humanitarian work with an organization called Global Brigades.
Global Brigades is the largest non-profit student-led global health and sustainable development organization in the world that believes in empowering communities to drive their own social and economic development. The Mount Allison Brigade, which has visited Honduras four times in the past, was the first to be formed in Atlantic Canada in 2009 and only the second in the country. The Mount Allison group has grown every year, and now has students and professionals contributing to community-led medical, dental, public health, water, microfinance, medicine and architecture projects, encompassing the entirety of Global Brigades’ holistic community development model for rural Honduras.
Mount Allison Global Brigades recently held a gala dinner in Halifax at the historical Pier 21. The Stewart McKelvey Global Brigades Gala raised in excess of the targetted $15,000 to support its annual capacity-building trip to Honduras, netting $20,000 instead. In February, Mount Allison Global Brigades will send every cent of this money with more than 100 people, including students and medical professionals, to Honduras for a week over spring break to provide medical and dental care, access to clean water and latrines, and other community improvement projects.
“Global Brigades employs a holistic model to meet a community’s development goals,” says fourth-year student Paras Satija, president of Mount Allison Global Brigades. “The projects are structured so they address very specific and basic needs. But Global Brigades doesn’t only impact the residents of partner communities. It provides first-hand experience in the practice of global development for thousands of university students every year. Students empowering communities, communities empowering students – it’s a win-win.”
Unlike other mission trips, the Global Brigades Headquarters has worked many years to build a stable relationship with the communities in Honduras and create projects that are specific to the local context of these communities. Mount A’s students and professionals are part of a larger, continuous presence of volunteers working to provide the wide range of resources required drive community development and create an environment where they can exit the community sustainably.
In a country like Honduras, where an iPhone costs about three times a monthly salary, the people living in the communities typically do not have a doctor. Medical clinics set up by the group can see approximately 300 patients daily. The group will also set up a gynecological station in hopes of addressing the health of the women in the community; something that is all too often ignored globally. They will also initiate public health projects in family homes in order to improve the sanitation conditions within the home and target preventative and recurring causes of disease and illness. Students will target common respiratory problems by building eco-stoves, and target water-bourne diseases, dental problems and parasites by building pilas (water storage units), latrines and showers. The Water Brigades addresses the issue of a lack of access to clean potable water within the community by working alongside community members to design and implement a new gravity water supply system that will supply clean water directly to their pilas. Global Brigades trains community volunteers to upkeep and maintain the projects and teaches community members about public health hygiene.
Students participating in the mission must finance their own travel to Honduras through fundraising outside of the fundraising for the mission itself. The program has helped students graduate and continue studies in medicine, global health and public policy, international development. To find out more about Mount Allison’s Global Brigades or to help, visit www.mta.ca/globalbrigades.
Trevor Donald is the student communications intern with RCE Tantramar, a Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development. He is also a student at Mount Allison University, where he is studying geography and environment.