Spotlight on Global Brigades

Screen shot 2010-11-22 at 5.05.28 PM_mediumGlobal Brigades Spotlight

Global Brigades is the world’s largest student-led global health and sustainable development organization. The program has mobilized tens of thousands of university students and professionals since 2004 to work in under-resourced areas in the world. With a focus on respect for the local culture while incorporating innovation and improvement, they utilize skill-based programs to work in partnership with community members. The goal is to improve not just quality of life but also improve equality of life. The passion of the student-led brigades helps inspire a large social responsibility movement on the planet.

The mission of Global Brigades is “to empower volunteers and under-resourced communities to resolve global health and economic disparities and inspire all involved to collaboratively work towards an equal world. “ Brigades are currently working in Ghana, Honduras, Panama, and Nicaragua.

The programming developed and utilized by Global Brigades is based on the theory of Holistic Development, defined by the group as a system of collectively implementing health, economic, and education initiatives to strategically meet a community’s development goals.

Global Brigades has nine programs it implements with its volunteers along members of the community and other local experts. Those programs are:

  • Architecture
  • Business
  • Dental
  •  Environmental
  • Human Rights
  • Medical
  • Microfinance
  • Public Health
  •  Water

Each program has been developed in conjunction with community members and students and is designed to empower them. Students are encouraged to deliver high impact solutions while working with every shareholder. Each brigade requires between 10-20 volunteers. They are normally organized through chapters on universities or sometimes at companies who sponsor professional chapters.

Global Brigades is always looking for more people to get involved. The first step is to determine which of the nine programs can benefit from your skill set. Once you have found your program, select the “Join Brigade” button where you will find a search bar to find a chapter in your area. There may be a chapter near you already that you can explore joining.  If there is not one, and you want to start your own chapter, Global Brigades will assign you with an experienced Advisor who will guide you through the process.

You can also take a look at interning.  Global Brigade internships are among the most significant experiential learning programs in the world. You can obtain on-the-ground experiences to go with your already proven leadership skills. The combination will enable you to take a giant leap forward in your career path.  Internships range from three to eight weeks, and can be performed in Ghana, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Rwanda and South Africa.

If you are looking for a way to learn a new culture, give back to the world, and improve the lives of others, Global Brigades offers stellar opportunities to make a difference and add to your resume. Try it, you will help improve the lives of others and it will transform yours!

Nathalie Baudet


Solidarity Tourism

27-eastwestjubilationTop United Nations officials stressed the importance of tourism in reducing poverty and linking countries through tolerance and solidarity as they marked World Tourism Day today.

“At a time of profound global economic uncertainty, tourism’s ability to generate socio-economic opportunities and help reduce the gap between rich and poor, is more important than ever,” Secretary Ban Ki-moon noted in his message for the Day.

“There is no better way to learn about a new culture than to experience it first-hand. Tourism offers a wonderful connecting thread between visitor and host community. It promotes dialogue and interaction. Such contact between people of different backgrounds is the very foundation for tolerance. In a world struggling for peaceful coexistence, tourism can build bridges and contribute to peace,” he said.

Mr. Ban called for the incorporation of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, a set of principles adopted by the UN to guide tourism stakeholders into sustainable and responsible tourism development.

The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary General, Taleb Rifai, also stressed the importance of the code in his message saying that tourism growth brings serious responsibilities to minimize any potentially negative impacts on the cultural assets and heritage of mankind.

“With 940 million tourists crossing international borders in 2010, never have the world’s peoples and cultures been drawn together as now. Through tourism, millions of people are brought closer every day,” hesaid, noting this year’s theme for the Day: “Tourism – linking cultures.”

“Experiencing different ways of life, discovering new food and customs and visiting cultural sites have become leading motivations for travel, and as a result, a crucial source of revenue and job creation, particularly for developing countries. Income from tourism is often redirected towards the safeguarding of these sites and even the revitalization of cultures,” he added.

Celebrated annually on 27 September, World Tourism Day serves to raise awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and the contributions it can make in the economic, political and social sectors, and how it can help towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

This article was first published by the United Nation News Center. Find it here

Do I Always Have to Adapt?

Adaptation-754937Do I Always Have to Adapt?

The simple answer is it depends. Alright, that wasn’t particularly helpful so let me explain.

It is normal to start out your journey abroad by looking for something familiar, something that feels home or makes you feel comfortable. But if you stick only to that which you are accustomed, you will exist in a bubble and not truly live and enjoy the local culture. You won’t be just a foreigner, you’ll become an outsider.

So yes, to some extent you have to adapt. As enticing as it may be, do not just associate with other expatriates, meet with the locals, try new things (isn’t that one of the reasons you chose to move in the first place?). It is not only the big things you want to know, but the little ones as well, any subtlety that make up the local ways of thinking and living.

Every culture has a different pace or tempo to it. Make every effort to get in the swing of things and adjust to that pace.

-So that’s it then? I have to act in every way like a local?

Well, no. Most people (those who aren’t familiar with the great advice we give on this blog), will probably tell you that you have to think and act like a local: “when in Rome, …” that’s where we disagree. Adapting is not forgetting who you are. There are things about yourself, big or small, that you are not necessarily willing to change to adapt. Then don’t.

Let me give you an example: I was attending San Diego State University in California (Go Aztecs!) and one day one of my classmates told me that she liked my style but deplored the fact that I dressed in such sad colors. I had never thought of my clothes as sad, to me they were just regular. As most French girls, I mostly dressed in black, blue, brown and other dark colors. I was never a fan of the neon yellow, green and pink that raved on campus at that time. It looked nice on the other girls but I felt ridiculous wearing them. I knew that I dressed differently than my Californian girlfriends but I chose to keep it that way. It’s a simple example but you get the point.

The most important thing is to get to know the local ways, to understand them, to try them out and respect them but you can chose which one to adopt or not. We’re all different and that’s what’s so great about the world!

Nathalie Baudet

An international push from the White House

An international push from the White House

42-21828752First lady Michelle Obama is working on efforts to promote more international travel among Americans. She’s in China with her daughters and mother, speaking about the importance of education, youth empowerment and the benefits of studying abroad. The first lady conducted an exclusive interview with CNN iReporters on Saturday, taking their questions on studying abroad.

“The benefits of studying abroad are almost endless,” Obama said during the CNN iReport interview. “First of all, it is going to make you more marketable in the United States. More and more companies are realizing that they need people with experience around the world.”

Howard Wallack, vice president of global business development at the Society for Human Resource Management, has experience as a hiring manager and was an international exchange student. He says traveling abroad can introduce students to a host of skills.

“Living in another country, you learn to deal with a variety of people,” he said. “You learn to listen, be proactive, be patient, assertive. All those are translatable skills.”

Wallack’s experience working in a rural health clinic in Guatemala after a major earthquake helped him find compassion and resiliency within himself.

“If you just stay in your own country, you have a certain mindset about your own culture. When you step out of that, you challenge your experiences and find out about yourself, which can translate in the workplace,” he said.

The problem is students don’t always know how to illustrate those experiences on paper. But some colleges are taking steps to teach soon-to-be graduates how to leverage their study abroad adventures for job interviews.

This article was published by CNN. Acess it here

Ecotourism, another way to travel

ImageEcotourism represents a set of principles that have been successfully implemented in various global communities, and are supported by extensive industry and academic research.

The following definition of ecotourism, established by TIES in 1990, is the most widely used and recognized definition of ecotourism: “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people” (TIES, 1990).

Ecotourism is an important and growing segment of the global tourism industry that is making significant positive contributions to the environmental, social, cultural and economic well-being of destinations and local communities around the world. Furthermore, ecotourism has provided an impetus to assist in greening the tourism industry on many fronts.

Ecotourism advocates for the well-being of local people, and requires that it “provides direct financial benefits and empowerment for local people,” as stated in the following principles of ecotourism: Principles of Ecotourism (TIES, 1990) –

Ecotourism is about connecting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. This means that those who implement and participate in ecotourism activities should follow the following ecotourism principles:

  • Minimize impact;
  • Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect;
  • Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts;
  • Provide direct financial benefits for conservation;
  • Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people;
  • Raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climate


The terms community-based tourism and community-based ecotourism are commonly used to describe the type of tourism that, recognizing the significant social, environmental and economic impacts tourism can have, primarily focuses on tourism’s benefits to local communities.

“Community tourism,” therefore, strongly aligns with ecotourism, which fosters responsible practices where the local community significantly participates in the development and management of tourism, and empowers local citizens to utilize natural and cultural resources in a sustainable manner.

We urge all the readers of this article to learn more about the positive contributions of the global ecotourism community, and to join us in our efforts to stop green-washing (or the irresponsible use of the terms green, eco and sustainable) in travel and tourism through education on principles and benefits of ecotourism, advocating sustainability.

This article was published by CNN. To access the site, click here

Bangkok, THE Place to Be

BANGKOK – Seeking good friends and financial security, and don’t mind being close to palm trees and white-sand beaches? Thailand might be just the place you’re looking for.

bangkokThe Southeast Asian country topped the latest HSBC Expat survey for best overall   expat experience, particularly when it comes to setting up, integrating and           finding friends. China, Singapore, India and Taiwan all emerged in the top 10, with Malaysia (No. 20), Indonesia (No. 31) and Vietnam (No. 32) still among the top       50.

The ranking, now in its sixth year, compiles surveys from among more than   7,000 expatriates from nearly 100 countries across the globe.

When it comes to economics, Thailand (No. 4), Indonesia (No. 6) and Singapore (No. 9) ranked among the best places to live for expats. Lower living costs and higher earnings potential, however, made Thailand the most cost-effective place for foreigners, while Vietnam and Indonesia ranked highly for presenting the best career opportunities.

Not always seen as the most friendly places to live given the lack of infrastructure and confusing regulations, those countries are also seen as becoming better places to live.

Of course, that may owe a lot to better relocation packages and high household earnings – Asia is home to the highest paid expats in the world, according to the survey, with the highest proportion of expats earning more than $250,000 located in Indonesia (22%), Japan (13%) and China (10%).

In recent years Asia has seen some of the world’s strongest economic growth, and many emerging economies in Southeast Asia have drawn in an increasing number of foreign workers seeking better career opportunities with growth in their own economies remaining sluggish.

“Over the years, we have seen expat wealth gradually heading east, with emergent, and now indeed fully emerged, regions like the Middle East and Asia becoming more and more popular with expats,” said Dean Blackburn, head of HSBC Expat.

In addition to providing financial stability, Asia is proving a preferred destination for improved quality of living.

Thailand topped the chart for being a good place to make friends and enjoy an active social life. Respondents said it was easy for them to embrace local food and culture, with 60% saying life in Thailand allowed them a healthier diet.

It also ranked highly for expats looking for improved financial status. Nearly 80% of those surveyed said they had seen their disposable incomes improve since moving to the country.

“From Thailand’s countless tropical beaches and islands, to the world-class restaurants and modern infrastructure, the cultural attractions, and a still relatively attractive overall cost of living, it’s really hard for any country to top,” said 46-year-old Neal McCarthy, who relocated to Thailand from the U.S. 12 years ago.  “I don’t regret for a second having made the decision to come here.”

The one area where Asia underperformed was ease of family living.

This article was published in the Wall Street Journal. Access the site here.

Do’s and Taboos Around the World

Do's and Taboos Around the World Do’s and Taboos Around the World

A great guide to international behavior.

In this “short and sweet” book, you’ll find, country by country, all the essentials (protocol, etiquette, hand gestures,etc) to avoid troubles in international situations.

It’s  not by any means the most complete book on international protocol, but it is helpful and definitely fun to read.


Do’s and Taboos Around the World; Edited by Roger E. Axtell; Compiled by the Parker and Pen Company; 3rd edition.

Buy it on Amazon