Global Brigades is an international non-profit that empowers communities to meet their health and economic goals through university volunteers and local teams.

Public Health Brigades FAQ

What is Public Health Brigades?

Public Health Brigades is an international network of passionate volunteers 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 Ghanaian 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 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 volunteers throughout the brigade in order to successfully construct the projects, create Community Action Plans, 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 Business 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 volunteers 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 partnerships 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?

Up to as much as 12 months in advance, families begin a savings plan with the Community Bank in order to make a financial contribution to obtain the Public Health projects. When this contribution is complete, and prior to the arrival of the volunteers, 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 volunteers and technicians. In terms of labor, families are responsible for helping to coordinate the delivery of materials to their homes, digging the septic hole for the latrine, and providing 3-4 people to work with students on the construction days.

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 volunteer-community interaction. Volunteers will have lots of opportunities to immerse themselves in local culture, as well as communicate directly with each family they are working with. Oftentimes, 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 volunteer 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 of 10 volunteers. To fairly serve a community’s needs, this number is non-negotiable. The maximum number of volunteers varies per country. Non-University Chapters- please contact

Where do the funds I raise go?

Volunteers do not pay to participate in a Public Health Brigade. Instead, volunteers fundraise to support Global Brigades’ Holistic Model. Once a volunteer meets a set Donation Goal, they are eligible to join us on-the-ground to see their fundraising efforts put into action by participating in a Public Health Brigade.

When a volunteer participates in a Public Health Brigade, the volunteer’s ground transportation, food, lodging, and emergency insurance are all covered. The funding that the volunteer raised also supports all the necessary costs for program implementation, such as construction supplies, coordinators, masons, translators, and support staff.

Visit our financials page to learn about how donor funds are utilized.

Is this safe?

The safety of the 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 University has a Public Health Brigades Chapter by searching for your University on the Chapters page. If your University does not have a Chapter, fill out the form below to get connected to one of our staff members.

This DONATION is non-refundable

This DONATION is non-refundable Global Brigades, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Your donation will be used to further Global Brigades' mission and will be allocated toward the program you selected. This donation will not be utilized to fulfill a chapter or a volunteer's fundraising goal. Read Global Brigades, Inc's full Donation Refund Policy here.

Looking to donate to support a volunteer's fundraising goal? Find their Global Brigades Chapter by searching our Chapters map and then selecting their upcoming brigade. If you need help finding their chapter, you can ask the volunteer to send you their brigade's specific website link or you can contact us.

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