Last weekend we had a very successful 5K to raise money for our efforts on campus!
As she reflects on her four years at Penn State, Dierdre Carlson gives us a look at how Global Brigades has evolved over the years on our campus.
PSUGB: When did you join Global Brigades/ what attracted you
DC: I joined Global Brigades during the Fall semester of my
freshman year. As much as I wish that I could remember exactly
how I heard about the organization, that piece of the puzzle slips
my mind. That being said, I can remember my first meeting.
In 2011 when I started, Global Brigades at Penn State existed
as separate chapters and not the current, overall structure.
My first meeting was with Water Brigades and there were maybe
about twenty to thirty people at the meeting with about five
executive members. The execs led us in an icebreaker that
embarrassed the entire room and then sat us down to a presentation
on Global Water Brigades and the work that they had previously
completed in Honduras (at this point there had only been one
trip before this meeting through Penn State and we hadn't expanded
Water Brigades to Ghana). This initial meeting left me feeling in
awe of how little I understood about the world, particularly with regards to sustainable development, and I called my Mom on
the walk back to my dorm to tell her that I was going on the trip
whether she wanted me to or not. There really wasn't any looking back
PSUGB: Which brigades did you travel on?
DC: My first trip was to Honduras with Water Brigades during Spring Break of 2012. We worked on a gravitational water system in Palo Verde, just slightly farther up the mountain from El Zurzular (the first holistic community that Global Brigades transitioned out of). Over Winter break of 2013-2014, I led a combined Water/Public Health Brigade to Ghana and I attended a Medical/Dental and Water Brigade hybrid to Honduras in May of 2015.
"This initial meeting left me feeling in
awe of how little I understood about
the world, particularly with regards to
sustainable development, so I called
my Mom on the walk back to my dorm
to tell her that I was going on the trip
whether she wanted me to or not.
There really wasn't any looking back
PSUGB: Favorite brigade experience?
DC: Every brigade offers such unique experiences, but if I had to choose a favorite trip I would most likely choose my first Water Brigade to Honduras. Before attending Penn State, I hadn't done much traveling and didn't know very much about international development. GWB prepared me well for that first brigade, but I was still amazed by everything that I saw and experienced in Honduras. Although the work was strenuous and the group ended every day covered with dirt, sweat, blisters, and sunburns, my community expanded from the microcosm of a small town in the United States to a global macrocosm. The way that I viewed and analyzed life changed dramatically to be considerate on a global scale; I changed my major upon returning from Honduras that year and continued working with Global Brigades throughout the rest of my career at Penn State, ultimately going on to become Campus Chairperson for all of Global Brigades at Penn State during the 2014-2015 year.
PSUGB: What would you tell members who are interested in applying for Campus Chairperson?
DC: For anybody that is interested in applying for Campus Chairperson, I first congratulate you on all of the hard work that you have put into the "behind-the-scenes" aspects of Global Brigades at Penn State to qualify for such a position; the role of an executive member requires such a dedication to the organization and the members that we work with on a daily basis. That being said, this position holds an even greater amount of responsibility, organization, and dedication than any other. If I had to provide advice or aspects to keep in mind when applying for Campus Chairperson, I recommend that you go in with a large amount of patience, understanding, dedication, and passion for the organization. This role requires you to communicate between both the international organization and the university, and going in with these four key features will prepare you to be the best motivator and moderator that this position of leadership requires.
PSUGB: Suggestions for members who will be going on their first brigade this year?
DC: For anyone attending their first brigade this year, welcome to an experience that you truly won't forget. With this in mind, the individuals that you work with in the communities won't forget the experience either, so be sure to remember that they are people with families, jobs, and lives. Treat them with the respect that you would treat those around you and be open to experiencing their lives with them!
Join us at the University of Pittsburgh February 6th and 7th for the regional Global Brigades Student Leadership Conference! Please consider joining GB Pittsburgh in an event full of inter-campus collaboration and networking. Attendees will have the opportunity to not only discuss their role as a GB volunteer, but will also learn more about international development. If you are interested in attending, please complete this Registration Form by January 31st.
Members of GB gathered at Old Main to remember several volunteers who were tragically lost on their recent brigade to Honduras.
A week and a half ago several volunteers were injured and some lost their lives in a tragic accident:
Olivia Erhardt, 20
Daniella Moffson, 21
Abigail Flanagan, 45
These volunteers had just completed their brigade to rural Honduras to provide medical attention to community members in great need. Many of us can relate to the selfless journey these women completed in Honduras- the hard work of devoting time and money to help others.
Our thoughts are with our Global Brigades family at Columbia University, their loved ones, and the staff members involved in the tragedy.
At the vigil we reflected on some of our most memorable brigade experiences, sharing heartfelt memories of working with community members and feeling the positive impacts of empowerment.
After this tragedy you may wonder, “What can I do to support the victims involved in the accident?”
Campus Chairperson Eli LaSota has reached out to our Global Brigades family at Columbia University offering our support; but for the time being, it has been asked that we all remain resolute in our pursuit of social justice and global citizenry in honor of the victims. May we all come together in an attempt to fill the void created by the loss of these remarkable and inspiring human beings.
While most of us tried to keep warm, Alaina Zappas and her brigades worked in warm San Lorenzo, Valle, Honduras alongside community members of el Junguillo- focusing on medicine and dentistry.
Sophomore BBH student Kelly Aksu traveled on the brigade and tells us about how this first brigade experience changed her expectations...
KA: Honduras was an awesome experience! During my brigade, I met so many people who were
grateful for our help. I did not realize the abundant medical need in rural Honduras until I
witnessed it with my own eyes. So many people were living in environments where disease and
bacteria thrived. People lined up early in the morning before we arrived to receive medical
help. They were so happy to receive materials we all take for granted such as toothbrushes, and
generic painkillers. It was a great feeling watching the relieved reactions of mothers as we
handed their child acetaminophen for their fever, or headache. Something so simple and easy
for us, but so meaningful for others. As a hybrid medical and water brigade, we were able to
treat the immediate medical needs of people, while also demolishing the medical problems at
the source by digging trenches for fresh water. Although it was grueling digging trenches in the
90-degree weather, it was so satisfying to work with the community to improve their homes
and create a better future for their families. I learned so much from this experience. People of
rural Honduras taught me the value of family and community. Everyone in the community was
willing to help their neighbors and community members in need. They shared everything from
kitchens to drinking wells to help each other survive. In just one week in Honduras I felt like I
made an impact. I also learned about the holistic model of Global Brigades and went to a
holistic community in Honduras. This enabled me to see the sustainable environment Global
Brigades is creating for communities. Overall, this trip opened my eyes to vast problems in the
world. It made me appreciate the lifestyle I live, while motivating my drive to change the life of
All photos are courtesy of Joseph Clark's Instagram account, @fullmanchu
There are currently:
22,000 food insecure people in Centre County
20.5% families are below the poverty level
6.1% of households are on SNAP benefits
Each year we hold a Thanksgiving Basket Drive, where we collect baskets of Thanksgiving food to donate to families in need. Each basket contains enough food to feed a family of 4-6 people. The baskets have a $20 gift card to a local grocery store for the purchase of a turkey as well as other canned goods like yams, corn, and applesauce. We usually donate baskets to some families of the State College Area School District, and fortunately were able to donate a basket again this year just in time for Thanksgiving!
Thank you for your donations :)
If you would like to help provide food for Centre County families in need, stay tuned for updates on when we will be volunteering on the Food Bank Farm again this spring!
Recently Build Brigades teamed up with the Norris Square Neighborhood Project to build an Earthship- inspired greenhouse made of tires, soil, and solar panels!
If you aren't familiar with NSNP, their mission is "to promote positive change through youth education, community leadership, green spaces, the arts, and the celebration of Latino culture," as stated on their website.
Currently Kensington is extremely resource restrained. So far NSNP has 6 themed community gardens in Kensington, Philadelphia (near Fishtown!) to "help promote cultural awareness and preservation, and advocate for a healthier future for [the] neighborhoods," from their vision statement.
They’ve been working with an engineer on the design, but are open to additional input from Build Brigades! Attention future architects- this is YOUR time.
Designs for the greenhouse project include:
On November 21st (day of the Michigan game) Tena and Tess will be traveling to the site to work from 9-1pm and are looking for people to help on that day so if you're in the area, please contact them! Lunch will be provided :)
Interested but are going to the game?
Over the next two months there will be other work sessions on Saturdays- the next one is December 5th.
The project is set to be completed in June, so more work sessions will be held in the spring!
Below are a few renderings of what the greenhouse will look like.
Co-founder of the Panzi Foundation USA & Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at PSU Altoona
If you couldn't join us last week, that's a shame.
We were extemely fortunate to have Dr. Lee Ann De Reus as a guest at our general body meeting. Dr. De Reus is a scholar-activist, maintaining a blog as she travels regularly to Panzi Hospital in eastern DR Congo to conduct research, develop programs for rape survivors, and inform her advocacy work in the U.S. She co-leads annual field experiences for PSU students to Rwanda and Mozambique. Dr. De Reus is a 2009 Carl Wilkens Fellow and the recipient of numerous awards from Penn State University in recognition of exemplary teaching and in honor of her commitment to global service and outreach.
She spoke about the Panzi Foundation, which she co-founded with Dr. Denis Mukwege, the head surgeon and gynecologist of Panzi hospital and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize seven times- no big deal. The foundation supports the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
It recognized for its efforts to end the stigma associated with women suffering from sexual abuse, assault, and rape. The foundation as been recognized by numerous entities including the New York Times.
Click here to read more about Dr. Mukwege's countless recognitions and achievements.
Dr. De Reus' daughter, Arianna, also attended the meeting. She is no longer an active member of Global Brigades, however she was during her time in college. Like her mother, Arianna strives to make big changes but in regards to national security. Since she was 10 years old, De Reus has been volunteering in developing countries, where she has seen how poverty affects national security. She has been accepted to intern with the National Defense University soon- congrats Arianna!
Because I can only attempt to lay out everything that this dynamic duo is up to, you should check out Dr. De Reus' TEDxPSU talk, Daring to Make a Difference for Congo.
We look forward to having more incredible guest speakers this year!
Now fundraising comes in light, medium, and dark roasts...
In an effort to help members fundraise for brigades, while also boosting the economies of communities we work with, Global Brigades partnered up with Stone Creek Coffee to create Cafe Holistico!
During the Conference for Campus Chairpersons in Milwaukee, Wisconsin several weeks ago, Eli (our PSU Campus Chairperson) traveled to meet with other Chairpersons and had the opportunity to tour the Stone Creek Coffee Cupping Lab. Stone Creek Coffee is one of the partners we are working with on this fundraiser, specifically for wholesale coffee products. They roast the dried beans imported from our partnering communities and package them for sale and shipment.
This coffee is really cool (not literally) because communities which produce this coffee are getting some substantial increases in profit. In comparison to Fair Trade USA, our communities will be earning 300% more revenue by working with us. Normally they would only be earning $1-$1.25 per pound of coffee, but now they are earning $4 per pound.
How you can fundraise for your brigade:
Buying wholesale coffee from Global Brigades. One 5 lb. bag is $47.50, there is a minimum order of 3 bags. Thus the minimum investment is $142.50. You can sell that coffee for any price point that you decide on. Each pound of coffee can brew ~32 eight ounce cups.
If you've ever bought Girl Scout cookies, you get the gist. The wholesale price for one bag is $10.50 and you can sell it for whatever you want. It's recommended that you sell each bag for around $16 a bag because what most competitors sell for. That is a hypothetical profit of $4.50 a bag.
Get back $5 for every bag that you would receive monthly, so $60 profit per year- a great gift to family, friends, or yourself if you love coffee!
Log on to Cafe Holistico's website to purchase!
Click here for more strategies! And happy fundraising :)