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 dump community 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, Nicaragua, and Ethiopia, and gained consultative status with the United Nations in 2011. Our United States office is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
To walk hand-in-hand with people in garbage dump communities, along with those with a calling to help, to break the chains of poverty and to improve our lives together.
Learn more about us
Who We Serve
An estimated minimum of 15 million people either live in or depend on the world’s garbage dumps. These communities that are dependent on dumpsites are called garbage dump communities. Learn more…
What We Do
Our approach to service is tailor-made: when we enter a community, we work with that community to understand their needs and then bring in programs that address those specific needs. Learn more…
Our guiding principles
Our name comes from the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37, in which Jesus describes how we should love our neighbor. As a Christ-centered organization, we are built on the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, which are described on the website of the US Council of Catholic Bishops as:
Life and Dignity of the Human Person
We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.
Options for the Poor and Vulnerable
A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring, especially in a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor.
care for God's creation
We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation.
Call to Family, Community, and Participation
The person is not only sacred but also social. We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.
The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation.
Learn more about catholic social teaching
Rights and Responsibilities
Human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities–to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.
We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace.
We follow Christ by walking and working with all people, regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual preference.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
A lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”
He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
He said, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Is of a time when the garbage dumps of developing nations are no longer homes to human beings struggling to survive.
What comes next?
We are committed to serving all of the communities that we’re currently in until those communities have safe, dignified work for their inhabitants, with basic human needs met for them and their families at minimum. We also plan to expand our model to other garbage dump communities around the world.
In 2019, we expanded our service to Jamaica and began feasibility studies in other locations; in 2020, we remodeled several of our existing programs in our communities to be more effective and encompass even more community challenges. We are continuing these projects into 2021.
See our impact in real time by subscribing to our Impact Stories.
International Samaritan is a nonprofit organization with the designation 501(c)(3). Our headquarters is located in Ann Arbor Michigan.