Students traded sun and sand for social change during spring break when the MSOE chapter of Global Brigades sent two groups of volunteers to Central America on service trips. The Medical Brigade traveled to Nicaragua where they worked primarily in a clinic setting providing basic medical care to the community while the Water Brigade traveled to Honduras to build a water system.

Global Brigades is an international non-governmental student-led organization that empowers under-resourced communities to meet their health and economic goals aided by university volunteers and local teams. During trips that span one to three weeks in partner counties, students work collaboratively with community members to achieve medical, water and infrastructure needs. When one group of students leaves, another takes its place. Brigades include: Business, Dental, Engineering Environmental, Human Rights, Medical, Microfinance, Public Health and Water.

These service trips are mutually beneficial, offering the participating communities much needed support, while students gain valuable practical skills in their areas of study. Global Brigades delivers integrated health and economic programs to meet a community’s development goals. For more information visit

MSOE Medical Brigade

The MSOE Medical Brigade took 41 student-volunteers to Jinotega, where they split their time between among the communities of Datanil, Hermita and El Salto. In Datanil, volunteers set up a free clinic. “We were able to work in a triage station, which included taking patients’ vitals and getting them ready to see the doctor,” said Medical Brigade President Heather Hansen, a nursing major. Students shadowed local and foreign health professionals – such as dentists and doctors – who were provided pro-bono consultations and medications.

Volunteers also assisted in medication packing and health education. “We worked with the children and taught them proper health hygiene – the importance of brushing their teeth, washing their hands, etc.”

Over the course of the three days, 653 patients accessed the complimentary health care services.

Volunteers then worked in Hermita de Sarawak, where they took on Public Health Brigade tasks, building home health infrastructure. “We helped build latrines, which are their form of a bathroom,” Hansen said. “This consists of a shower, toilet and washing station for clothes.”

The group was able to build eight latrines, as well as pour three concrete floors – two in homes and one in a church.

The final leg of the journey was spent in El Salto, where student helped out in a Water Brigade capacity – picking rocks from a mountainside to be used for a retaining wall.

“The trip really gave people a wide experience of what Global Brigades is about,” Hansen said. “Global Brigades isn’t just about helping in the medical field, it’s about helping those communities in need become sustainable. This is one of the things I love most about the organization: they don’t just go in once and leave, they track data at the clinics, and they look at what the community is missing and help them form businesses to meet those needs. It all starts from meeting the most basic needs, then they work their way up.”

MSOE Water/Engineering Brigades

A group of MSOE students from the Water Brigades traveled to the Los Hautales, communities on the volcanic island of Amapala in southern Honduras. The goal of the trip was to help area residents plan and install water systems.

For three days, the MSOE group of 21 volunteers worked side-by-side with Honduran men and women digging trench, laying pipe, and backfilling in 100 degree heat. For two days, the volunteers visited communities with existing water systems that were in need of improvement. Students also led an education workshop that focused on watershed protection, which was attended by 50 local children.

This was the first year MSOE had a Water Brigade. It replaces the Architecture Brigade, which was discontinued by the Global Brigade program.

“Students from different majors across MSOE were able to combine their skills to make this trip a huge success,” said Water Brigade President Kelsey Murzyn, civil engineering major.

Beginning in the fall of 2016, MSOE will add a Public Health Brigade to its overarching Global Brigade offerings.