Spring Break Trip to Panama with Global Brigades

Article by Alex Bansleben (Q18)

I know what you’re thinking. Even though we still have finals to study for and papers to write, it’s about the time of the year when you’re beginning to wonder, how can I have the best spring break possible? You have one week off of school, and you want to go somewhere warm and have the time of your life. Well, stop your worrying! I’m going to tell you how you can have the best spring break trip (and one that your parents will actually approve of)!

As many of you may know, I am currently working on planning a spring break service trip to Panama with fellow QUEST students. The trip is organized through an international service organization called Global Brigades (www.globalbrigades.org). Every year, GB sends more than 6,000 students abroad on week-long service trips related to one of nine different topics, like public health, the environment, medicine, and others. The program most related to the QUEST program is “business”, which makes this trip officially called a “Global Business Brigade”, but students of all majors are welcome to attend. Here at UMD there is already a Global Medical Brigade club, and they have done three trips to Honduras since their inception.

Because the trip is not officially hosted by the University of Maryland or by the QUEST program, we will have the liberty of designing our own itinerary for this trip. Ideally, here is what it could look like: You will get to spend your week of spring break in rural Panama. Along with other QUEST students, your time will be spent helping to empower community members in the town of Torti Abajo. Every day, you will work in groups of 4-5 people to meet with families/individuals and conduct workshops to help them sell their products and improve their financial stability. Doesn’t that sound similar to the systems thinking approach to process improvement we learn in the core QUEST classes? As a participant on this trip, you will be working with a client (490), listening to the voice of the customer (190), and developing a systems-based solution (390) to help people truly in need. Every day includes a lot of down time, and the town is only one hour east of the exciting Panama City.

Unfortunately, I do not have enough space in this article to discuss every detail of the trip. For now, I can tell that you are wondering how much this trip will cost. The cost of the actual Business Brigade is $880, and flights to Panama in March are generally in the range of $600-700, which adds up to an expected total cost of $1500. However, the fundraising we will be doing as a group could lower that cost substantially. As a trip leader with Alternative Breaks, I can tell you that this cost is lower than any of our week-long international trips.

I hope that you will consider this opportunity to spend your next spring break in Panama with fellow QUESTees! Before the end of the semester, there will be at least one more information session, so be on the lookout for an email or Facebook notification. Also feel free to email me at alex.bansleben@gmail.com for any more information. See you in Panama!

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