While most students will be enjoying their freedom from school in May, a few University students will be traveling to Central America to participate in volunteer work aimed at curbing global poverty.
The University chapter of Global Business Brigades will give students the opportunity to travel and work with communities in Central America. The group will work with the communities in a variety of ways: from helping them start businesses to working with them to better manage crops.
Collin Peterson, president and co-founder of the University’s chapter of GBB, said the group provides an “easy gateway” to volunteering while also teaching basic skills needed to help communities in need.
“Our goals are based upon the resolution of poverty,” he said. “That is an extraordinary goal that cannot be accomplished by solely our group, but each step that we take is one step closer.”
Peterson said he hopes to make the trip to Central America a regular excursion, beginning with this year’s trip to Panama.
Matt Boesler, executive director of the University’s chapter of GBB, said he hopes the trip will help alleviate poverty in Panama.
“By helping to expand small businesses, we will build community wealth and encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship in a way that I believe will help to break the cycle of poverty that many Panamanians face,” he said.
Boesler added that he thinks the group’s trip to Panama will not only benefit the country but also the group’s participants.
“Our trip will be one week early in the summer, during which we hope to provide consulting, microfinance and educational services to developing microenterprises — businesses that could range from two people weaving hammocks to a community-wide farming co-op,” he said.
Boesler said that the participants’ skills include accounting, business management and agriculture. He said this broad variety of abilities will allow the organization to help the communities in as many ways as possible.
Peterson said the trips are largely dependent on the national program of the club and will require the University’s chapter to fundraise and hold special events in order to send members on the trips.
“Throughout the entire process we will be planning our trips with help from our national nonprofit organization, Global Business Brigades,” he said. “From this organization we are given projects, many of which are from the Peace Corps.”
The idea to start a University chapter of the group came naturally to Peterson, who said he has a passion for helping the global community.
“With such diversity and massive amounts of resources here at the University, we have come to realize the effects we can have on the world,” he said. “After doing some research, we stumbled across this organization, who shares many of the aspirations that we hold.”
Before it heads to Panama, the group is focusing on recruiting as many new members as possible by blitzing campus with fliers and mass meetings.
“We want to get our name out there,” Peterson said.