Alaine Perconti, For The Miami Student

(HANNAH MILLER | The Miami Student)

“If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. If you teach him how to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.”  

This is the mantra of junior Molly Babbington as she prepares to lead a group of students to Panama to make a difference in communities through a new student group at Miami University called Global Business Brigades (GBB).

Getting Started

GBB is a branch of Global Brigades, a national volunteer organization dedicated to aiding developing countries in a variety of disciplines. The first Global Brigades was a medical brigade that originated at Marquette University in 2003, according to Global Brigades’ website. Students developed their own Global Medical Brigade after working closely with the Sociedad Amigos de los Niños (SAN). SAN is a well-respected, reputable charity in Honduras and has been improving the lives of Honduran children for over 40 years, according to honduranchildren.com, the charity’s website.

In 2007, the medical brigades became independent from SAN. That spring, the first business brigade was piloted. Although the business brigades are relatively new, they are already making a significant impact in Panama and Honduras, where they provide consulting and investment services to help implement sustainable development projects, according to Global Brigades’ Director of Student Affairs Michelle Menclewicz.

Like the first pioneering students at Marquette University, Babbington, is taking the first step toward establishing a business brigade on Miami’s campus.

Miami’s brigade of 15 to 20 students chosen during the application process will travel to Panama during spring break. There, the brigade will work within communities to provide consulting and investment guidance toward sustainable solutions. The brigade will focus on local development and hold financial workshops for farmers and citizens, according to Babbington.

Babbington said she is marketing GBB on campus to students and preparing for the trip in March. Miami students have noticed and responded to her efforts.

“(GBB) got my attention because I think it’s unique and clever,” sophomore Brianne Davidson said. “(It’s) like business meets service on a bigger scale.”

Many saw GBB as an opportunity to supplement their learning experience in the classroom.

“I feel that this organization will help me make the connections I need to that the business school will not,” sophomore Briggs Cocke said. “The organization fills a void left open by the business school.”

What is GBB?

The spread of brigades throughout the United States and on campus has been largely a grassroots effort.

Menclewicz, became involved after her first brigade trip in August 2007. She is now a part of establishing new brigades and helping them prepare for trips. Menclewicz receives three to five e-mails per day regarding new brigades. Babbington had contacted Menclewicz in summer 2010.

“I knew from the first e-mail that Molly was a great candidate to lead a brigade,” Menclewicz said. “I could tell she was a strong leader.”

Menclewicz said Babbington is one of the most memorable leaders she has worked with so far because of her incredible passion, organization and outgoing personality.  

Babbington heard about GBB from a close friend who shared her brigade experience at University of California San Diego. The combination of travel and service sparked interest immediately. GBB seemed like the perfect opportunity to develop her business skills and pursue her passion for philanthropy. Consequently, Babbington made that first contact and began the process.

“I was on the website and saw the opportunity to start your own brigade,” Babbington said. “It was that simple.”

According to Menclewicz, it takes about five to six months to prepare for a brigade. The process involves rigorous recruitment of passionate, dedicated students. Following recruitment, fundraising and connecting with faculty and students before embarking on the trip is essential to success. Babbington is currently in the recruitment part of the process trying to generate interest around campus and get the word out about the new GBB.

Right hand man

Babbington hasn’t been working alone all this time, however. Senior Tim Kittrick showed interest and applied early in July 2010. His enthusiasm was something Babbington couldn’t pass up, so she enlisted his help right away.

Kittrick has been assisting with recruiting and administrative tasks, but will take on an executive role once the first members are accepted, according to Babbington.

GBB had everything he was looking for: leadership opportunities, travel and a relevant tie to business.

“I wish we could go on the trip right now,” Kittrick said. “This is going to be a life-changing experience.”

Recruiting

Although Babbington was an ideal candidate for beginning a new brigade, the whole process has not been smooth sailing. Already an active, involved student on campus, Babbington knew she would have to make some sacrifices for GBB.

She decided to drop her commitments to club soccer and her sorority in order to make time for GBB.

“I knew everyone would think I was crazy,” Babbington said.

She pushed forward anyway, e-mailing and contacting as many students as possible in July 2010. She used Facebook and listservs to try to get the word out before the 2010 school year began. Her recruiting efforts warranted 65 initial responses, and student interest continues to increase on campus as she and Kittrick speak to different organizations. They want to have a lot of applicants in order to be able to choose from the best possible pool of students.  

Avoiding the proverbial “resume builders” and personally connecting with students is the aim of the GBB campaign.

“We want people to really see what GBB is and understand the goal,” Babbington said.

With the exception of a small start-up packet with flyers and posters, how GBB is marketed to Miami’s students is completely in the hands of its student founder.  Babbington and Kittrick are working hard to market GBB to students and attract those who share their passion for service learning.

“This organization is deeper than just the name,” Kittrick said. “People just aren’t really sure what Global Business Brigades means.”  

GBB is open to all students who want to make a difference and are passionate about the cause. Babbington is personally invested in the mission of GBB and maintains a passion for service learning.

“The ‘business’ name might throw people off, but to me it is more about the cultural experience,” Babbington said.

She hopes to expand GBB throughout her remaining years at Miami to multiple brigades that travel at different times during the year. Most importantly, GBB is striving to make an impact in the lives of others.

“We’re taking baby steps,” Babbington said. “I want to be able to expand GBB eventually, but we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin yet. It’s important to focus for more of an impact with the first brigade.”

There were 38 applicants by the Sept. 10 deadline. Including Babbington and Kittrick, there are 18 new members.

Contact Molly Babbington at mugbbrigades@gmail.com for more information.

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