UVic Global Brigades: Gaining a global perspective
Guest post by Ashley Larnder
I grew up curious about the world and the idea of poverty. In North America, we are exposed to “poverty” through pictures painted of starving children around the world. Yet these images have never felt real to me and there has always been a disconnect between them and my life here in Victoria.
I can remember clubs day in my first year of university where I took pamphlets from every organization that offered trips volunteering abroad. I never once considered the impact of these trips and naively joined UVic Global Brigades that first year. Four years later, I am still with the same organization, but with a very different understanding of ethical volunteering and sustainable development.
What is Global Brigades (GB)?
Global Brigades is an international non-profit organization and a registered charity in Canada. Their goal is to sustainably transition rural communities out of the poverty cycle through a Holistic Model of development. Their approach acknowledges that health and economic disparities require a multi-faceted solution.
Think about it: Overall wellbeing includes access to affordable medical care; however, if medications don’t resolve root issues, such as unclean water and inadequate sanitation, then what good is the treatment? How can you afford sanitation infrastructure and medications if you aren’t healthy enough to work and earn a stable income? Poverty is a cycle, which is why GB’s development model is also approached as a holistic cycle.
GB is centered around the partnerships made with rural communities so they are actively involved in the process, working year-round alongside the local GB staff members. Bringing students into the model through a brigade (volunteer trip) acts as a driver of change to offer resources, skills, and funding to the organization.
Global Brigades at UVic
UVic Global Brigades has been around since 2008. We’ve sent 23 brigades with over 474 volunteers. We currently have three active chapters:
Global Medical/Dental Brigades: Volunteers help facilitate a mobile medical clinic within rural communities that is led by in-country medical professionals. Patients receive free health care and hygiene amenities. Medical stations include: triage, consult, optometry, dental, gynecology, pharmacy, and health education.
Global Business Brigades: Volunteers consult rural entrepreneurs to help expand their businesses through growth, marketing and finances. Financial literacy education workshops are taught within each community.
Global Engineering Brigades: Volunteers partner with community leaders and local technicians to assess, map, survey and design clean water systems custom-designed for rural communities.
Our club meets throughout the year to fundraise, educate, and connect with our local community. We believe our impact extends beyond these international volunteer experiences and we want our members to learn about sustainability and ethical volunteering while still engaging with other organizations here in Victoria.
Since joining UVic Global Brigades in my first year, I have learned to appreciate other cultures, understand poverty without the narrative of the media, and to think critically about issues within my own country; for example, access to clean water in First Nation communities and affordable feminine hygiene products.
Joining this club has been the highlight of my degree and my experiences have forever changed my perspective and career goals. The like-minded people I’ve met through this club have become my life-long friends. I can still remember returning from my first brigade and feeling like I finally was a part of a community here at UVic.
For those who are entering UVic or are already here, please come check us out! We are always open to new members and we hope that we can challenge your perspective of the world and of poverty. Regardless of what faculty you are in, or what your background is, we believe everyone has something valuable to contribute to our club.
Facebook: UVic Global Brigades