SLU’s Global Brigades Chapter Partakes in the Movement, Collaborates with Others

We are the movement.

Over winter break of 2012-2013, Saint Louis University’s Global Brigades chapter sent more than 120 students to three countries on two continents all for one mission: Holistic Development. The vision of Global Brigades is “to improve equality of life by igniting the largest student-led social responsibility movement on the planet,” according to

A collegiate chapter of Global Brigades is a group of students that come together in order to further the vision of Global Brigades. This chapter sends out any number of students and professionals, from 12 to 30 or more, to various countries on a number of disciplines. This year, SLU sent an Environmental Brigade to Panama, a Dental Brigade to Hondruas, two Medical Brigades (to Ghana, Africa, and Honduras), a Public Health Brigade to Honduras, a Water Brigade to Honduras, and has hopes to do Law, Microfinance, and Human Rights Brigades in the future as well.

On Feb. 17, SLU’s Global Brigades chapter hosted the Global Brigades Exchange in which more than 70 brigaders from five universities in Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa collaborated on ideas to improve their college chapters.

“Ultimately it is idea-sharing that others can institute into their own chapters that have worked for us, or prevent them from wasting their time on bad practices,” said Leila Houshmand, SLU’s outgoing campus chairwoman. These included leadership workshops, fundraising ideas, and other ways to get their chapter name more known on campus.


EKUMFI-NANABIN, GHANA–Meg Robben, DPT, and Hilary Obert, SLU Senior, return from a home visit with Global Brigades Ghana’s In-Country Program Coordinator John and a translator in the remote village. Robben was one of two American professionals on the trip, and Obert was one of 28 students, that spent 10 days in Ghana over Winter Break. (SLU/Wilson Fulk)

Houshmand is a senior in the School of Public Health and Social Justice and was one of the key contributors and head planners behind the SLU Exchange. She was the main contact with Global Brigades national that set up the entire exchange.

“We have the most active chapter in the surrounding area, except for Chicago,” Houshmand said. “Chicago held their own exchange, so they weren’t invited to ours and vice versa. It was great to get all of our SLU leaders in contact with the other chapters’ leaders to collaborate and come together on issues they wanted to discuss.”

For some this was chapter structure and the way to run a chapter throughout the year, but for other chapters it was working on their programs to develop a change in the countries they visit on future brigades. It was set up as an elective type exchange where brigaders could go to the workshops and seminars they were most interested in.

Because Houshmand is graduating in May, she has started the transition process of training incoming Campus Chairperson Gretchen Landgraf, a junior in the department of Nutrition and Dietetics in the Doisy College of Health Sciences. Landgraf, another avid brigader and planning committee member of the Exchange, was very excited to get together with other Global Brigades chapters.


EKUMFI-NANABIN, GHANA–Participating in the opening ceremony, SLU Junior Gretchen Landgraf, incoming SLU Global Brigades Campus Chairperson, dances with some Ghanaian children. “It really is two-fold, as 50% is for you and the other 50% is for the community you are helping at that particular time,” said Landgraf when asked what she gets out of volunteering with Global Brigades. (SLU/Wilson Fulk)

“Being able to support the smaller schools out there and to hear their stories and the things they want is amazing,” Landgraf said. “We all have the same aspirations, and the exchange helps to open your eyes to other possibilities.”

Landgraf believes that Global Brigades has offered her clarity in what she want to do for her profession, and more.

“It really is two-fold, as 50% is for you and the other 50% is for the community you are helping at that particular time,” Landgraf said.  “Global Brigades helped to solidify that track I was on and made medicine become something I was passionate about and wanted to do for the rest of my life. It isn’t about the number of patients you see, but the impact you make. It [GB] is quality over quantity.”


EKUMFI-NANBIN, GHANA-Zach Burnett, Global Medical Brigades President and SLU Junior, plays with children after doing door-to-door visits in the village of Ekumfi-Nanabin. Burnett says that Global Brigades has reaffirmed his desire to practice medicine and is his motivation to do the best he can now. (SLU/Wilson Fulk)











For incoming SLU Global Medical Brigades President Zach Burnett, a junior Biology major in the College of Arts & Sciences, Global Brigades is all about the development and change. He hopes to see future growth within the chapter in order to become one of the leading service organizations on campus.

“We seem to be changing every year,” Burnett said. “This past brigade year we sent two full medical brigades, as well as full water and public health brigades, and are expanding to incorporate microfinance and environmental to full brigades. This will help SLU’s chapter reach the overall mission of providing holistic work in the countries we serve.”

Global Brigades has been a key factor in what it has taught individuals in their personal lives that has influenced their outlook on their soon to be professional lives. For Burnett it is a sense of motivation and looking at medicine and the power of common people to make a big change. For Landgraf, it is about the aspect of helping a small number of people in a greater way, rather than helping a great number of people in a small way. For Houshmand, it is the idea that collaboration is more than coming together but it’s the next gesture so that they can “create the movement.”

Saint Louis University’s Global Brigades chapter is striving to make a global impact focusing on holistic care with sustainable development.

Join the movement.