The mission of Business Brigades is to empower rural
communities in Panama, without access to financial services
and business guidance, to become more economically stable
by providing micro-enterprise consulting, financial planning
assistance and strategic investment after a thorough examination
of potential loan applications. Business Brigades provides students
with the opportunity to work first hand with community banks and
Global Brigades' microfinance staff to provide financial literacy
education, micro-enterprise consulting, and promote community-
based credit savings to community members. A Brigade consists
of working, on a household and individual level, to conduct
workshops on financial literacy topics and small business
development consulting. Volunteers work in small groups to get
to know their clients and address the financial and/or business
needs and challenges of the client. Business Brigades are
designed for volunteers of all backgrounds to be able to fully
engage and contribute in the implementation of economic
Capital Investment for Community Members
Volunteers serve as economic development catalysts by investing into the community credit and savings cooperatives. The investment is turned into seed capital for loans or is used to match savings accounts of those participating in the financial literacy workshops. The community banks are managed and owned internally by each community, allowing for maximum access and perpetuation of capital for local investment and growth.
Knowledge & Cultural Exchange
Working side-by-side with community members affords volunteers the opportunity for cultural exchange, micro-finance, and consulting experience. Clients benefit by learning personal financial management techniques and business skills, while gaining access to credit and savings opportunities. Based on their assessments and workshops, volunteers will make recommendations to the community bank on potential loan applicants and provide the capital for loan corpus. Between brigades our in-country team maintains relationships with the community bank to provide follow-up and measure outcomes.
Brigade Length & Logistics
The Business Brigade is for 7 days in Panama. Interested Business Chapters will work with a Global Brigades Advisor to select their brigade dates and book their airfare through Global Brigades' travel partners. Each Chapter then fundraises for the program contribution and airfare needed for the brigade. Upon arrival in Panama, Global Brigades staff pickup students from the airport and transport students to a safe and secure lodging facility where they will be lodged throughout the duration of the brigade. Each day volunteers and staff commute to and from the community to provide workshops and consulting. All meals, in-country transportation, coordinators, translators, and supplies are provided during the brigade.
Johns Hopkins University
University of Southern California
Johns Hopkins University, United States
"When I arrived in Panama, I hardly spoke a word of Spanish. I had never been to Latin America. I had no idea what to except. Though I was excited at the prospect of volunteering in a less developed country than the United States and getting to know a new culture, I had no idea how fulfilling and helpful a single week would be. To be honest, I was a little bit skeptical.
As soon as I arrived in the community of Platanilla, I realized that our mission was one of listening, understanding, and interacting with the community so that we could provide suggestions to make their lives easier. Though a week is so short, this approach is very effective. We were able to make a difference in a week because we spent hours genuinely getting to know our clients and their needs. Rather than just talking about their businesses or financial worries, we learned about their lives and families. We got to know their children and lifestyles"
UC Berkeley, United States
"I know that the chief purpose of my volunteer work with Global Brigades was to empower those without opportunity. But my trip to Honduras, and later trip to Panama, created a multitude of memories that have changed my perspective of the world and in a grandiose way, humanity. This is not to say you won’t change the landscape of opportunities of the individuals you meet, but you may come away with more than you ever expected.
My trips to Panama and Honduras transformed my image of volunteering. Volunteering is not charity, volunteering is much more in line with empowering those with will. In each and every case I witnessed Global Brigades didn’t throw money at problems, but rather gave individuals the means to develop their own community. In turn, slowly, but surely, they changed the communities they engaged in.
Now I am in shock with how much my trips have impacted me. My advice to you is to take the chance and go. I promise you that after all is said and done the worst part will be leaving."
University of Southern California, United States
"The experience impacted me because I went there expecting to be the one teaching, but came back having learned so much more from the community. The entire island was brimming with joy and optimism. This raised the question, how could a tiny island that has so little, at the same time have so much love and generosity? Alternatively one may ask, how could a nation that has so much, at the same time have so much misery and greed? I am still trying to find an answer to this question.
The experience directly inspired me to volunteer as an English teacher in rural Ecuador the following summer. It is also the reason why a few friends and I decided to revive the Global Microfinance Brigades chapter at our university. The reason for doing so is because I wanted to give others the same life-changing experience that I had when I first went with Global Brigades. After recruiting volunteers and spending a week in Honduras doing microfinance work last winter, I knew that I had successfully shared that feeling with many others.
As a result of my life-changing experiences with Global Brigades, I am now seriously considering it as something I can hopefully continue doing as a career option after graduating. The entire staff at Global Brigades is extraordinarily kind, driven, and easy to get along with, all of whom I am honored to have worked with. This definitely also includes the translators, security, and our beloved bus driver! The relentless combined effort of the Global Brigades staff is what brings people together from across cultures in order to learn from each other skills and values. It is not a one sided relationship, but a mutual one, which is what makes the experience so incredibly rewarding for everyone"
Miami University, United States
"While only so much is possible within the 8 day span of a brigade, it can be difficult to truly grasp the purpose of the organization before going on a brigade. Accordingly, while I thought I had a done enough research and was open enough to be prepared for my first brigade in December, that was not the case, and my mind was thoroughly blown. It wasn’t the conditions of the village or the educational material we presented which caught me off guard, that much I had more or less prepared for. What I hadn’t anticipated, however, was the passion which I discovered flourishing within the individuals I met with and power with which that personal connection would affect me. Seeing what they had already done with so little allowed me to grasp on to their vision for the community, and made believing in their capacity to achieve change come second nature. For those 8 days I poured myself into the efforts of the community, and if but for a brief period, my self seemed to melt away into the greater communal goal of attaining quality of life. It is that feeling which I am grateful to the people of Piriati, Panama for allowing me to experience with them, and while I knew that those 8 days were simply a taste, I’m happy to say it left me hungry for more. I only wished that more of my fellow brigadiers had shared the powerful experience that I had."
Columbia University, United States
"Through my involvement with Global Brigades at Columbia University, I’ve been fortunate to travel to Ghana as president of Global Microfinance Brigades, and to Panama as a volunteer with Global Business Brigades. One moment from our recent Ghana brigade endures as my most memorable. My classmates and I held a financial literacy clinic, where we implemented a shareholder model in the community development fund and sold 500 shares to villagers. For me, witnessing concrete change in the community, along with awesome enthusiasm for the undertaking from all sides, reinforced my belief that sustainable development through microfinance is completely possible. Global Brigades has given me the opportunity to meet and learn from incredible people–students, villagers, and GB staff–an experience that has been incredibly rewarding. My involvement with GB has inspired me to pursue my interest in development both in and outside of the classroom, and has undoubtedly enriched my experience living in a city as diverse as New York."