International Samaritan

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International Samaritan
Founded 1995
Founder Fr. Don Vettese, S.J.
Focus Service to the poor in the developing world
Area served
Dominican Republic
El Salvador
Key people

Board of Trustees & Council
Alvaro Andrade, Guatemala
Duane Stranahan Jr., Florida
Clay Mathile, Ohio
Karen Pulte, Michigan
William Pulte, Michigan
Joseph Rideout, Ohio
Joan Vatterott, Missouri
John Vatterott, Missouri
Mary Lou Fox, California
Christopher Lindsey, New York
Truman Timmis, Michigan
Fr. Tom Pipp, S.J., Missouri
Fr. Don Vettese, S.J., Michigan

Oscar Dussan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Andrew Pawuk, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Mary Hall, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Slogan "If not us... Who? If not now... When?"

International Samaritan (IS) is a non-profit organization headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan near the campus of The University of Michigan. Its mission is to serve victims of severe poverty by partnering with them and others to alleviate hunger, homelessness, endemic disease, and ignorance. International Samaritan primarily works in garbage dump communities in developing countries.

International Samaritan offers service learning immersions for students, medical personnel, and others to Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Egypt, and Ethiopia. With the help of its partners, the organization builds schools, nurseries, homes, medical facilities, community centers, adult training schools and funds microloans, food programs, and scholarships.

Immediate goals include expanding services in Ethiopia, as well as Nicaragua and the Philippines. International Samaritan's ten-year plan is to extend services to Cambodia, and Sierra Leone.


International Samaritan was founded in 1995 by Jesuit priest Father Don Vettese. In the summer of 1994, one of the presidents of St. John's Jesuit High School and Academy took several students from the high school to Guatemala City, Guatemala. While driving, their van came upon a car accident and was detoured. Traffic brought the van to a halt at the 750-acre city dump. At the time of their visit, the Guatemala City Dump allowed children to work in the dump collecting recyclables alongside adults. The students could not comprehend what they were seeing and asked Fr. Vettese if there was anything that could be done. Upon returning to Toledo, Ohio, Fr. Vettese gathered funds and started International Samaritan.

On July 1, 2006, International Samaritan opened its new headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It had been headquartered at St. John's Jesuit High School and Academy where its founder served as president until 2007. After the close of the 2007 school year, Fr. Vettese left the school in order to serve full-time as president of IS.

IS has conducted numerous medical missions to the developing world since 1995. Medical missions have included doctors, pediatricians, dentists, oral surgeons, nurses, EMTs, pharmacists, medical professionals, and countless volunteers. The medical brigades work directly with populations living next to garbage dump communities, serving the poor who often have no other access to health care.

IS also has a decade of experience organizing service learning immersion trips for high school students, college students, churches, and other groups.


Since its foundation in 1995, IS has founded several projects. They are as followed:


  • Colonia San Juan Housing Project
One of the many new IS houses
    • IS's first project donated supplies and plans for 210 block houses to be built near the Guatemala City Dump. IS organized the project in the United States and Guatemala while Guatemalan citizens built the homes themselves. Each home supplies water, electricity and sewage systems to the residents.
  • Micro-business loans
    • In 1996, IS set up a large seminar that supplied loans and education to workers of the city dump. Women and men received loans of up to US$2,500. (The average Guatemalan family lives on US$1 a day.)
  • Santa Maria Church
    • In 1997, IS built the Santa Maria Catholic Church which today serves 100 families. The church is a fully functioning parish which offers daily Mass and all of the sacraments.
Sta. Clara Nursery
The new classes in the Innocent Angels Nursery
  • Santa Clara Nursery
    • Founded in 1998, this nursery cares for children whose mothers work in the dump. In 2007, over 400 babies and toddlers were cared for daily at the nursery.
      • Innocent Angels Nursery
        • Added to the original Santa Clara Nursery, a new hall of classrooms and bathrooms allowed the Santa Clara program to support 150 new toddlers.
  • Myra Thompson Sewing School
    • Placing emphasis away from a life at the dump this school, founded in 1999 graduates 70 women annually.
  • Francisco Coll School
    One of two first grade classes at the Francisco Coll School
    • One of IS's largest projects, this school provides quality, free education to more than 300 children. Additionally, the school provides seminars to the children's parents. In 2005, IS expanded the school to include two additional classrooms and a counseling office.
  • Francisco Coll School Nutrition Program
    • Created with the foundation of the Francisco Coll School, this program provides 3,000 meals weekly to the children of the Guatemala City Dump.
  • Colegio San Antonio Claret II
    • In 2004, IS began sponsoring this already established Jesuit school with yearly grants.
  • Colonia San Juan Housing Expansion Project Phase II
    • After the success of the original San Juan housing project, IS signed a cooperative housing agreement with city mayor Alvaro Arzu. This agreement includes plans to build 600 homes over several years.
  • Food Program (since 2000)
  • Service Learning and Medical Mission Trips (since 2000)
  • Step by Step Program (since 2007)
    • A scholarship program designed to assist graduated students by continuing their secondary education. The program covers all expenses from tuition and uniforms to transportation and books. There are currently 40 students in the program receiving assistance to attend 6 different schools.
  • Soccer Team (since 2008)
    • The Francisco Coll School Saints soccer team and Coach Ruano excelled in their inaugural season competing against seasoned teams throughout Guatemala City. The Saints represented their country at a 64-team tournament in Brazil with a roster composed of garbage dump dwellers. They actually made it to the "sweet sixteen" before being eliminated by the tourney's ultimate winner.
  • Basico School (2009)
    • The High School will be constructed near the Francisco Coll School, which borders the largest garbage dump in Central America.

El Salvador[edit]

Young girl at Guatemala City Dump
  • Precious Angels Nursery & Community Center
    • IS's first project in Guatemala's neighbor, El Salvador, this center provides for another dump community of nearly 5,000 people. The center was built in 2002.
  • Santa Ana Youth Center
    • Started in 2002 this program provides a safe environment for youth age 6 - 16.


  • The Richard Flasck Medical Center - Built in San Pedro Sula, in El Ocotillo in 2010, this center serves the urgent health needs of 8,000-10,000 children and families from the local garbage dump annually.
  • IS Nursery - San Ignacio, San Pedro Sula, El Ocotillo 2008
  • Escuela Republica de Mejico, San Pedro Sula
  • Colegio Nuevo Paraiso, Moroceli
    • After it was damaged by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, IS refurbished the school with a large grant in 2004.
  • Emergency Food Program
  • Housing Program (since 2008)
  • Medical/Service Learning Immersion Trips (since 2008)
  • Step by Step Program (2009)
  • Microloan Program (2009)
  • Secondary School (2010)


  • New Project Feasibility Studies (2009)
Dump in Nicaragua


  • Microloan Program (since 2008)
    • Vocational training for garbage dump workers to promote dignified employment.
  • Food Voucher Program (2009)
  • Medical/Service Learning Trips (2010)
  • Housing Program (2010)
Food Program in Haiti 2009


  • Food Program (since 2000)
  • IS Schools (2009) Along with the Jesuit community, IS has committed to build 18 new schools for earthquake refugees in Port-au-Prince.
  • Medical/Service Learning Immersion Trips (2010)
  • Microloan Program (2010)

Cairo, Egypt[edit]

  • Housing Program (2009)
    • It is estimated that 40,000 people live and work within the Cairo garbage dump.

Sierra Leone[edit]

Kids at dump in Sierra Leone
  • Feasibility Study in 2009
    • The life expectancy in Sierra Leone is 40 years according to the World Bank (2008).


  • Feasibility Study in 2010
    • According to, 5,000 people work and live in the Phnom Penh garbage dump.

The Philippines[edit]

  • Feasibility Study in 2010
    • It is estimated that the Payatas Garbage Dump in Manila harbors about 12,000 people.


  • Feasibility Study in 2010
    • In Beijing, Shanghai, and Peking, hundreds of people work at the garbage dumps, based on an article in the New York Times.