by Riya Haria
Photography courtesy of @BU Business Brigades
“Change lives, better lives and save lives.” This is the mission statement of international non-profit organization Global Brigades. Led entirely by students, the organization focuses on health and economic disparities in developing countries and provides sustainable solutions. Since its foundation in 2007, over 30,000 volunteers have traveled from more than 800 university clubs.
Along with the opportunity to diverge and gain multicultural experiences through the Study Abroad and External Programs at Boston University, the Global Brigades program offers students a holistic experience filled with learning, teaching, travelling and making connections. The organization is divided into seven sectors, ranging from Water Brigades to Medical Brigades.
For example, the BU Business chapter works with more than 300 other university groups around the world to deliver and implement the skill-based programs that benefit over 130,000 Honduran and Panamanian community members annually. In May 2017, volunteers from BU had the opportunity to visit the community of Ipeti Colono, located along the Pan-American highway. Over the course of ten days, these volunteers developed an effective business plan for the community.
“In the Business Brigades program, we apply our classroom knowledge to the real world,” said Parihan Ali, President of the Global Business Brigades at BU. “I realized in Panama that I was in control for the first time. I learned how to make decisions on my own and how to be an independent leader. The program wasn’t just about business for me. It taught me how to build relationships with people and taught me invaluable real-life lessons that I would not have learned during an internship, or in a classroom setting.”
For some, the language barrier can be challenging.
“At college, most of us communicate through the universal English language in class,” said Ali. “However, in Panama it was a culture shock to have to explain business to someone without using the classroom terminology.”
All Global Brigades volunteers attend weekly meetings to discuss potential fundraisers. These fundraisers help them to reach their annual goal of $1,500 per volunteer. In the past, popular fundraisers have included tables in the George Sherman Union selling churros and bubble tea. The group has also completed community service work at Agganis Arena.
Many students bond extremely quickly with one another throughout the program.
“When you're working together for a good cause, everyone comes together and becomes one unit,” said Ali. “Whether it was the people guiding and leading us, the brigadiers from other schools, or the community members, we all just came together to help one another.”