USA Volunteer Resource Site

Safety & Security

Global Brigades understands that traveling to a new part of the world can be daunting not only for volunteers but also friends and family that are supporting your brigade. Our number one priority is volunteer safety and we have created this guideline and FAQ page to help address concerns you may have about the safety and security of our programs.

It is important to note some of the generalities of our safety and security standards: 

  • As an international entity, we are registered members of the OSAC. This allows global Brigades to constantly obtain updates about our programming countries directly from the State Department.
  • We adhere to the IVPA standards of international Volunteering
  • Volunteers are enrolled on international travel insurance that covers hospitalization, evacuation, and a limited “tailgate” benefit.

The Global Brigades entities in our programming countries have the responsibility of administering regular risk assessments of the current political situation, the location of lodging facilities and communities, and transportation provided to volunteers.

It is important to keep in mind that the communities we work in are largely isolated and far away from major cities where crime is more prevalent. Global Brigades has built very strong relationships with the communities in which we work and is very aware of the safety and security environment of each community. We urge parents and volunteers to understand that crime committed in the major cities of the countries we work in does not mean that the entire country is unsafe. For example, if there was a riot in downtown Dallas, we would not assume that the entire state of Texas is unsafe and that the people in Houston are at risk. Please consider the nature of our work in isolated areas when reading any negative press about the danger of the countries that we are working in. Should you have any questions or concerns about Global Brigades’ safety please contact admin@globalbrigades.org.

Vaccinations

Please click on your desired country for the vaccination requirements.

Honduras

Recommended Vaccinations to Honduras include:

  • All Routine Vaccinations as recommended by CDC
    Hepatitis A
    Hepatitis B
    Typhoid

Due to changes in Honduran vaccination policies, any individual who has ever visited a country in which yellow fever is present (i.e. Panama) for more than 12 hours must bring and present their Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate to immigration when entering Honduras. If you do not have the yellow certificate card, you may not be granted access into the country.

Some volunteer

Panama

Volunteers traveling to Panama should have the following Vaccinations:

  • All routine vaccinations as recommended by the CDC
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Typhoid

 Yellow Fever***

Note: Please make note of this important information:

  • If you are traveling to Panama directly from the US or a country where yellow fever is not present, there is no government requirement to have the yellow fever vaccine. 
  • You are required to present the Yellow fever card if: You are planning on traveling from Panama to a country that has yellow fever or requests yellow fever vaccines (i.e. Honduras), otherwise you may not be allowed to board.
Ghana

 Volunteers traveling to Ghana should have the following Vaccinations:

    • All routine vaccinations as recommended by the CDC
    • Hepatitis A
    • Hepatitis B
    • Typhoid
  • Yellow Fever – Required

Note : *The Yellow Fever vaccination is required to enter Ghana. If you do not bring proof of your Yellow Fever vaccination, you may not be allowed to board the plane to Ghana or you may be turned away at immigration. Malaria: It is extremely prevalent throughout Ghana. Therefore, we also recommend all volunteers to take malaria prophylaxis. Discuss which prophylaxis is best for you and your trip with your physician well before your brigade.

Some vaccinations must be administered a few months or weeks before you travel. Vaccinations can usually be obtained at a health care provider or through a travel clinic. Always consult your physician for the best-recommended treatment option.

Guatemala

Recommended Vaccinations to Guatemala include:

  • All Routine Vaccinations as recommended by CDC
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Typhoid
  • Yellow Fever

Note: Please make note of this important information:

  • If you are traveling to Guatemala directly from the US or a country where yellow fever is not present, there is no government requirement to have the yellow fever vaccine. 
  • You are required to present the Yellow fever card if: You are planning on traveling from Guatemala to a country that has yellow fever or requests yellow fever vaccines (i.e. Honduras), otherwise you might not be allowed to board.
Greece

All volunteers are recommended by the IOM to have their Hepatitis B vaccination up to date. For more information on Greece, you can also refer to the CDC website here

Frequently Asked Questions

Please browse through the Frequently Asked Questions. If you need more information please contact us at admin@globalbrigades.org

What kind of security and staff is provided?

Every group is accompanied by at least one trained Brigade Coordinator, a full logistics team, and trained drivers. While in the community, Brigade Coordinators are in charge of maintaining a professional and safe work environment for the volunteers and the community. All coordinators are trained to assist first aid emergencies at the locations. Special transportation is on-call 24/7 during the brigade in case of major emergencies or complete evacuation from the location.

We also have some great partnerships that add a layer to our security protocols:

Honduras
Through a partnership with the Honduran government’s Office of Attention to Foreign Volunteers (Oficina de Asistencia al Voluntario Extranjero) which provides support to international volunteers, all groups are also accompanied by a police officer, as a precautionary measure.

Panama:
Through a partnership with the Panamanian Frontier Service – SENAFRONT, all groups in the Darien region are also accompanied by a police officer, as a precautionary measure.

Greece: Global Brigades works in refugee camps in Greece:

The camps are managed by the Greek government which has partnered with NGOs such as the Danish Refugee Council, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization of Migration (IOM), a UN agency. These NGOs have site management teams in all of the camps in charge of coordinating all camp logistics and services provided to the residents. Global Brigades and the other NGOs offering services, only operate in the camps when IOM Site Management teams are present to ensure access to security.

The camps we currently work in are located on land owned by the Greek government. Many of the camps were built on old Army bases. Consequently, in several of the camps, we work in, Army bases are in close proximity which provides an added security benefit. There is an IOM (International Organization of Migration) SMS (Site Management) team within the camp at all times that provide us with additional security benefits.

While in the camps, Brigade Coordinators are responsible for maintaining a professional and safe work environment for the volunteers and camp residents. All coordinators are trained to respond to first aid emergencies. Transportation is available 24/7 during the brigade in case of emergencies

What is the relationship between the local entity and police?

Global Brigade partners with government entities to sustainably run our programs. We have maintained very strong relationships with authorities in countries we work in. All authorities are aware and supportive of volunteer activities and have worked together since the beginning of our operations to support the volunteers.

Honduras:
Global Brigades Honduras has maintained strong relationships with local security actors in the country, including the national police and army. All Global Brigades’ volunteers receive in-country support from the government’s Office of Attention to Foreign Volunteers (Oficina de Asistencia al Voluntario Extranjero) in the form of expedited customs processing and security support from the national police for the duration of all brigades. The Honduran government, as well as the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, is aware of Global Brigades’ programs in the country, and the presence of international volunteers in Honduras, and provides support as needed in the event of any emergency.

Panama:
GB Panama has maintained very strong relationships with the local Panamanian police authorities in the regions of the country we work in. These authorities, as well as the Panamanian government are aware and supportive of volunteer activities and have worked together successfully for years to support the volunteers. Furthermore, GB’s community projects are only done in rural areas where crime is low (if barely existent) and where relationships have been long established.

Greece:
GB Greece has built and maintained very strong relationships with IOM and the SMS team. These authorities, as well as the Greek government, are aware and supportive of volunteer activities and collaborate on how we can strengthen programs through regular NGO working group meetings. Global Brigades and the SMS team are always connected through a camp Whatsapp group chat, mobile phones and email.

What is the involvement of the U.S Embassy and Department of State?

Prior to each brigade, all volunteers are registered in the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Additionally, Global Brigades in-country entities are in close contact with the Embassy and are notified of any safety advisories.

Global Brigades is also a member of the OSAC (Overseas Security Advisory Council), from whom we receive the latest travel safety and security updates. These updates help us make key decisions towards our brigade operations in-country.

Greece:  As volunteer projects within refugee camps have become prevalent in the last couple of years the Embassy and DOS are well accustomed to accommodating for safety and concerns of volunteers.

What criteria does Global Brigades use when selecting transportation vendors?

All vendors must be in full compliance with all local laws and regulations required by the government in order to transport passengers. All vehicles being provided must be recent models and in excellent working condition.
All drivers must possess the appropriate special driver’s license that is required by the Honduran government, qualifying them to drive the types of buses that are being provided. In order to obtain this license, drivers have to pass a special driving test administered by the government.
Lastly, Global Brigades only works with established vendors in the transportation field who have extensive experience in the business of transporting passengers.

Greece: Due to the high standards of the European Union and the high intensity of competition in the tourism industry, most Greek transportation companies are already at a level of excellence. Our transportation continues to receive the highest marks of approval by volunteers.

Are the communities/Camps safe?

Before entering a community, the GB Research and Evaluation (R&E) team collects baseline data, assesses community needs and secures buy-in from the local leadership. Each community is visited by the operations team of the local Global Brigades office to ensure that it is secure and safe for transporting the volunteers to and from the community. If the in-country leadership team ever feels that the safety of volunteers is compromised in any way, volunteers would be immediately withdrawn from the community.

How accessible are the communities/camps?

All communities must be accessible through paved roads or well-maintained dirt roads (used mostly during summer) by normal vehicles or four-wheel drive. The driving time to the location varies between approximately 30 minutes to 2 hours from where the volunteers are staying.

Greece:
Many of the NGO actors which operate in the camp drive from Athens every day and are able to access camp with their standard vehicles.

Have there ever been any incidents related to criminal activity?

Global Brigades has an exceptional track record for brigade security because of the involvement of local law enforcement, hired security, and strong relationships with local community leaders. Groups have only experienced incidents typical of any international travel, such as petty theft. Global Brigades has not experienced any incidents related to criminal activity in any of our programming countries (Panama, Honduras, Greece, Guatemala or Ghana)

Are volunteers ever alone?

Volunteers are never alone; Global Brigades staff remain with all groups for the entire duration of their brigade. All volunteers are given explicit directives to remain with their group at all times during the program.

What if the group has to be evacuated?

All program countries have detailed evacuation plans in place in the event volunteers need to be removed from the program site or country due to an emergency. All volunteers are covered by the Global Brigades Travel Insurance Policy. The in-country Program Associates will work with the Brigade Coordinators, local embassy, and airlines to ensure that the group departs immediately and safely.

Who do I contact in case of an emergency?

If there is an emergency situation where the family needs to get a hold of the volunteer immediately, please contact the appropriate team members listed below:

Emergency Travel Contact:
• GB International Office, +1-206-489-4798, or email admin@globalbrigades.org

Honduran and Guatemala Contacts:
• Luis Torres – Executive Director of Global Brigades Honduras, +504-9488-7997 (Honduran Mobile, Accessible via Whatsapp)

Panama Contacts
Pablo Garron – Executive Director: +507-6151-6288 (Panamanian Mobile, accessible via Whatsapp)

Ghana Contacts
Shafiu Shaibu – Operations Director: Ghanaian Mobile

Greece Contact:
Tina Voulgari – Executive Director: +30 693-698-0665 (Greece Mobile Number, accessible via Whatsapp)

What if a volunteer gets ill during a brigade?

With common, non-urgent illnesses, volunteers can be seen by a staff paramedic or physician. In severe cases, or by request of the volunteer, Global Brigades can arrange communication with family members or transportation back to the volunteer’s home country. Depending on the severity or nature of the illness, transportation home may be partially or fully covered by Global Brigades’ travel insurance.

What are your Coronavirus protocols?

We understand that the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the way travel and international volunteering works. We have developed protocols following each of our programming countries’ government requirements. For more details click on each country flag

Panama
Ghana
Greece
Guatemala
Honduras