WashU Global Brigades in Panama: Student Spotlight

Global Brigades is a group dedicated to empowering others. Nationally, it is the largest student-led global health and sustainable development organization. The organization works to recruit volunteers and professionals to “empower developing countries that improve quality of life while respecting local culture.” The WashU chapter of Global Brigades was started almost a decade ago and has grown from one to seven annual trips!

Below is a featured student spotlight by Nina Nepa, a current sophomore who just returned from a spring break Global Brigades trip to Panama.


I went on an Environmental Brigade to Embará, Panama, which is a rural community about 3 hours outside of Panama City. We worked with the Ipetí-Choco tribe, which was an indigenous group that resided there. I became interested in pursuing this trip at first because I wanted to travel abroad and learn about a new community. However, this experience turned out to be so much more than that.

Our specific project was to fully construct a tilapia pond, to promote sustainable agriculture practices and economic security. Although the work was grueling manual labor, I felt extremely lucky to be there, working side by side with the community members. Even in our short time spent with the tribe, everyone accepted us immediately, and treated us as their family.

Many of the brigaders did not speak Spanish, but still made strong, memorable connections. Language, whether it was Spanish or their indigenous language, was not a barrier. Rather, it was a welcoming challenge that dared everyone to move out of their comfort zone.

This experience allowed me to appreciate what I have, but understand that our culture is not necessarily what others want as well. It gave me a greater cultural understanding of their customs and traditions. However, although we have returned from the trip, it is not over. We may have left a physical impact on the Ipetí tribe’s land, but they left a greater impact on us, to which we can share with others to inspire other brigades in the future.




To learn more about the WashU chapter and Global Brigades in general check out the website here.