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Sunday, August 01, 2021

UF Global Brigades chapters makes lasting impact on international communities

As one of the strongest chapters within the nonprofit organization, UF serves as the pioneers for Global Brigades’ TeleBrigades.

UF and FSU students part of the Global Medical Brigade in Panama in 2019.
UF and FSU students part of the Global Medical Brigade in Panama in 2019.

UF Global Brigades chapter participated in Global Brigades’ new, virtual, experiential-learning program to continue helping under-resourced communities around the world during the pandemic.

As international travel came to a halt with COVID-19, the humanitarian nonprofit organization, Global Brigades created TeleBrigades to allow students to still work virtually with these communities in need through a multi-week program.

"The idea behind that is the students would still be able to participate with interacting with community members and making that said impact on the ground, but just by sitting at home on their laptops, logging on to Zoom and having that virtual experience,” CEO of Global Brigades Shital Vora said.

TeleBrigades were originally intended to be used as a temporary alternative for the in-person Brigades, but Vora said they will continue as they’ve proven to be really successful.

As the pioneers for this virtual program, the UF Global Brigades chapter will incorporate both in-person and virtual Brigades this year to allow for more students to participate.

UF’s Global Medical, Business and Engineering Brigades chapters focus on helping under-resourced communities around the world through these volunteer trips by providing better health systems, building community-owned banks and implementing clean water systems. 

These projects are done in Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Ghana and Greece. 

What makes UF one of the strongest Global Brigades chapters is how the students take what they have learned from volunteering and working with these communities to further build their careers, Vora said.

“It’s not just they’re volunteering for a weekend, and then they go back to whatever they were doing, they’re actually changing as individuals,” she said. “These are transformational experiences for students.”

In 2019, 20-year-old senior linguistics and classical studies double major, Isa Koreniuk traveled to Panama as a volunteer for UF’s Global Medical Brigades chapter.

As people from the community piled in and out of the UF student clinics, educational stations and pharmacies, she had witnessed the impact these brigades have on these communities. Their setup clinics treated 700 Panamanians in that week alone, Koreniuk said.

“I was just a regular volunteer and once I saw what this organization does for these communities, I really wanted to get more involved,” Koreniuk said, as the former Medical chapter’s president and now media director for the Global Brigades board at UF.

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Global Brigades provides students coming from all backgrounds with an opportunity to help others, even as they are not certified with medical licenses. Koreniuk said it’s a valuable opportunity to contribute to communities in need.

Beyond medical assistance, the UF Global Business Brigades chapter aids underserved communities by working alongside entrepreneurs and professionals to create financial opportunities for people in rural areas.  

Former Business Brigades chapter president Zach Roberts went on a Brigade to Panama to help local businesses. The work included creating marketing plans, providing laptops and calculators and implementing community banks to allow people to take out loans for reasonable prices.

Roberts said he continued working with the people in Panama this year through the Telebrigades, where he assisted one woman in setting up her business on social media, organizing the cost analysis for the products and helping with her side business.

With TeleBrigades, the UF chapter has grown from its three Brigades — Medical, Business and Engineering — to seven different chapters, campus chairperson for the UF Global Brigades chapters Paige Bruman said.

The UF Global Brigades chapter has expanded to represent a holistic model to help under-resourced communities in different ways. New additions to the chapter include Water, Dental, Legal Empowerment, Public Health and Environmental Brigades. 

Bruman helped found the organization at UF back in Fall 2017, during her freshman year, and said the Brigades she went on were life-changing.

“It’s such a heartwarming experience, and I really think I grew as a person going on these brigades, making these memories, meeting new people, it really is just more than I could have ever imagined,” she said.

Shital Vora had created Global Brigades in 2003 after an eye-opening Spring break volunteering trip to Honduras to treat patients in need when she was an undergraduate at Marquette University.

She, along with the other undergraduates who were on that Spring break trip, were blown away by the impact they made in one week. It was her first brigade experience and it completely changed who she was, Vora said.

Since then, Global Brigades has grown to be one of the largest student-led humanitarian organizations in the world.

UF’s Global Brigades has contributed to this achievement by helping numerous under-resourced communities one Brigade at a time.

“UF students are directly making that impact and not just on a temporary level, on a level for generations to come,” Vora said.

Contact Camila Pereira at cpereria@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @CamilaSaPereira.


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