Our Mission

International Samaritan works hand in hand with people living in garbage dump communities to help them break out of poverty.

In Special Consultative Status with the United Nations.

Who we are

International Samaritan is an international nonprofit dedicated to raising the standard of living in garbage dump communities. For 25 years, we have worked to change the lives of the most vulnerable people in the world through a unique blend of hands-on service and advocacy work.

International Samaritan was founded in 1994 by Father Don Vettese, S.J. On a school trip to Guatemala, Father Vettese’s group was diverted from their route due to traffic and drove through the garbage slums instead. Father Vettese was horrified by what he saw and pledged to do something about it. That chance encounter led to the creation of International Samaritan.

All these years later, International Samaritan has grown beyond Guatemala, and our mission is carried out by people across many nations and faiths. International Samaritan currently has offices in Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Ethiopia, and gained consultative status with the United Nations in 2011. Our home office is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.



A carefully maintained structure built into or on top of the ground, where waste is disposed of through regulated, systematic burnings.



A place where garbage is dumped illegally and/or without the careful regulations of a landfill. Instead of being burned, garbage in garbage dumps is left to rot.


International Samaritan focuses on community-level aid to raise the standard of living in entire neighborhoods. We also focus on a very tailored and holistic approach: when we enter a community, we work with that community to understand their needs and then bring in programs that address those specific needs, either directly through International Samaritan or through partnerships with other nonprofits or government agencies.

For International Samaritan considers itself present in a community when all three of the following criteria are met:

  • We have a team of locally-hired individuals overseeing our programs.
  • We have established an academic scholarship program that serves students from pre-K through college or trade school.
  • We have at least one of our other programs present in the community.

Click the buttons to the right to learn more about our programs around the world.


OUR VISION IS OF A time when the garbage dumps of developing countries are no longer homes to human beings struggling to survive. 

We will continue serving the countries we’re currently in until those communities can offer have safe, dignified work for their inhabitants, with the basic human needs met for them and their families. We will also expand our model to other dumps around the world.

In 2019, we expanded our service to Costa Rica and Jamaica. In 2020, we plan to expand our work to Paraguay.

About Us

International Samaritan is a nonprofit organization with the designation 501(c)(3). Our headquarters is located in Ann Arbor Michigan.

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(734) 222-0701

803 N Main St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

M-F: 9am-5pm, S-S: Closed

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