Global Brigades is an international non-profit that empowers communities to meet their health and economic goals through university volunteers and local teams.
The largest student-led movement for global health
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What is Public Health Brigades?
Public Health Brigades is an international network of passionate students and professionals that work together to identify community health threats and implement public health solutions in rural communities. Our mission is to empower rural Honduran, Panamanian and Nicaraguan communities to prevent common illnesses through infrastructural development, community leader training and health education.
Who participates in a Public Health Brigade?
Volunteers of all interests and students from all academic disciplines participate in Public Health Brigades. Passion and dedication are the most important requirements for our brigaders. The Public Health staff and community members also work alongside students throughout the brigade in order to successfully construct the projects and help educate the community on their assigned health or sanitation topic.
How are communities chosen?
Communities are selected after reviewing the reports from our in-country research & evaluation team and talking with potential partner communities. Factors such as health and economic need, community buy-in, and location are just a few of the indicators used in the selection. Public Health Brigades concentrates on communities with an established Global Brigades presence and work closely with other programs, like Water Brigades and Microfinance Brigades, to perpetuate our Holistic Model.
What are the main public health challenges in the Global Brigades communities?
The health situation in many of our communities is dismal, with many traditional practices contributing to illness. Common, preventable illnesses such as respiratory diseases, skin infections, body aches, stomach ailments, and diarrhea can often be traced back to certain conditions and behaviors in the home. Poor hygiene practices remain common, and flawed waste disposal practices pose great environmental and sanitary risk. Families cook for hours without any ventilation on traditional stoves that emit toxic levels of carbon dioxide and ash. Most homes do not have proper latrines, forcing the families to defecate outside—perhaps near water sources or food crops. Lack of proper water storage facilities makes it difficult to perform simple sanitation practices, such as hand washing, and the poorly maintained, stagnant water provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other insects that carry diseases like malaria and dengue fever.
Along with under-resourced conditions in the home, there also exists an underdeveloped concept of preventative health on a community-wide scale.
How does Public Health Brigades address those challenges?
The goal of Public Health Brigades is to connect students with communities to implement sustainable, community-based solutions to address these health needs. This is accomplished through a comprehensive model that addresses three methods of prevention: health education, community health sustainability, and infrastructure development. Through education, preventative strategies are promoted by means of short health workshops in the schools and strong partnership with teachers within the community in order to improve quality of life and prevent the spread of diseases. The Public Health Brigades team trains and empowers local community leaders in the formation of Basic Sanitation Committees. Finally, students help build basic in-home infrastructure as a method of disease prevention, including latrines and eco-stoves, to address the community’s health and sanitation needs.
Do I need construction experience?
No. Though construction experience comes in handy, local technicians and your Brigade Coordinator will teach you all the necessary skills and techniques you will need during the brigade.
What does the PHB team do to prepare for a Public Health Brigade?
The community-wide projects of Public Health Brigades require a lot of preparation prior to volunteers arriving in country. From the beginning, relationships are fostered with local government officials, community leaders, and families to ensure that the necessary support and community buy-in exist for Public Health Brigades’ efforts. General assemblies are held to facilitate collaboration between Public Health Brigades and the community and to highlight community needs and the ways in which Public Health Brigades will address those needs. Throughout the preparation period and thereafter, staff conducts individual home visits to meet every family. These home visits allow Public Health Brigades staff to analyze living situations and devise individualized plans for development, while providing one-on-one time for questions, education, and follow-up. The team also meets with the teachers of the community to create a list of health topics deemed as high priority, and works to develop a curriculum for the education workshops.
What does the community do to prepare for a Public Health Brigade?
Several weeks in advance, the community engages in a number of activities to prepare for a Public Health Brigade. Families are educated on what is expected of them and know what is required well before we enter with students and technicians. In terms of labor, families are responsible for helping to coordinate the delivery of materials to their home, digging the septic hole for the latrine, clearing out their home and preparing the floors for concrete laying, and providing 3-4 people to work with students on the construction days. Families are also required to make a financial contribution as well. Those that need assistance to pay for their Public Health Projects, are able to take out a low-interest micro-loan from the community banks established by Microfinance Brigades prior to Global Brigades’ entrance into a community.
In Honduras, how is the Basic Sanitation Committee formed and who are its members?
Members of the Basic Sanitation Committee are democratically elected by the rest of the community at a general assembly meeting. While the Public Health team provides training and technical assistance, community members are fully responsible for the formation and continued function of the Basic Sanitation Committee. Committee members make monthly in-home visits to ensure the projects are being properly cleaned and maintained, host community clean-up days, aid in the education workshops, and serve as role models and health liaisons within the community.
What kind of interaction will I have with the community?
A unique feature of Public Health Brigades is the close student-community interaction. Students will have lots of opportunities to immerse themselves in local culture, as well as communicate directly with each family they are working with. Often times, by the end of the week, brigade groups feel a very strong connection to the family with whom they have been working—and the family to the students—and want to maintain a relationship with them
What does a student do to prepare for a Public Health Brigade?
For all brigade planning tools, volunteers should visit the Volunteer Resource Site. For Public Health Brigades specifics, please see “What to Expect on Your Public Health Brigade.” Be sure to reference the Public Health Pre-Brigade Curriculum.
Is there a minimum or maximum number of volunteers for groups?
For University Chapters, there is a minimum 15 volunteers. To fairly serve a community’s needs, this number is non-negotiable. There is no maximum volunteer number. Non-University Chapters- please contact email@example.com.
Where do the funds I raise go?
Volunteers work together with their chapter to fundraise for their individual contributions. Each individual program contribution includes everything needed for the medical brigade: medicine, equipment, local doctors, local dentists, pharmacists, translators, support staff, ground transportation, food, lodging, public health construction supplies, and emergency medical insurance. Airfare not included.
Is this safe?
The safety of the student volunteers is Global Brigades’ number one priority and is the single most important consideration when entering a community or choosing a project. Each country that Global Brigades serves in has implemented safety protocols and policies to decrease any risk of danger and to ensure that any emergency can be properly handled in a prompt and professional manner. For more information on safety precautions, emergency procedures and insurance information, please visit Safety and Insurance on the Volunteer Resource Site.
This sounds great. How do I get involved?
First, find out if your school has a Public Health Brigades Chapter by searching for you school on the Chapters page. If your school does not have a Chapter, fill out the interest form and you will be connected with a Chapter Advisor.