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.



Our main goal is to raise the standard of living for the whole community.

Meeting Medical Needs: We do 3-5 medical mission trips a year with volunteer medical professionals, as well as provide year-round clinics through local professionals.

Creating Community Facilities: We build community centers, houses, medical centers, libraries, and schools through a combination of in-country contractors and volunteer service trips.

Supporting Community Initiatives: We partner with other nonprofits and in-country organizations, businesses, and individuals to bring needed improvements to the community that we couldn’t otherwise provide.


To improve the community, the individuals in the community need a way to pursue their own goals – be it education or an entrepreneurial venture.

Providing Basic Needs: We offer scholarships and micro-loans that cover the majority of food, clothing, medical, housing, and transportation costs.

Providing Education: Besides building and supporting schools in the community to reduce admission costs, we offer scholarships to students to attend. We offer support from early childhood education through college through our Paso a Paso program.

Providing a Platform: We give the individuals in the community the option to sit down with our staff and tell us their stories – and many do. 


We want others to join in and continue our work.

Conducting Service Immersion Trips: We do 30+ trips a year to our locations abroad for high school and college students, churches, and organizations who are interested.

Raising Awareness Locally: We do this digitally through our website, mini-documentaries on YouTube, and social media, and also through quarterly newsletters and events.

Expanding the Worlds of Scholarship Recipients: We have frequent overlap between our service immersion volunteers and the scholars in our Paso a Paso program, giving them different perspectives on the world and helping them learn English.


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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