International Samaritan is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising the standard of living in garbage dump communities. With headquarters in Ann Arbor, they have offices in Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Ethiopia. In 2019, International Samaritan received an impact grant from the Catholic Foundation to provide service immersion scholarships to low-income Detroit Catholic school students who will travel to serve members of the garbage dump communities. They also opened the International Samaritan Endowment Fund with the Catholic Foundation in 2019.

International Samaritan was founded in 1994 by Father Don Vettese, S.J. after he saw a garbage dump slum on a school trip to Guatemala and pledged to do something to help. Now 25 years later the organization continues to work to change the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people through a blend of hands-on service and advocacy work in meeting medical needs, creating community centers, and supporting local organizations in their community initiatives.

As the organization has begun in the last few years to invest in scholarships for young people in the garbage dump communities to fund their education, International Samaritan wanted a fund that would help them sustain and expand those scholarships over time, and decided to open a fund for this purpose with the Catholic Foundation. “International Samaritan has always valued the long-term sustainability of its work. This endowment gives us the ability to guarantee the long-term viability of our missions in the event of a short-term shortfall,” shares Dan Weingartz, International Samaritan board member.

President Mike Tenbusch and other Michigan-based staff visit San Pedro Sula, Honduras. During the trip, International Samaritan celebrated the inauguration of the first 9th grade classroom at their education center there.

“As a Christ-centered organization built on the principles of Catholic social teaching, the Catholic Foundation was a perfect fit for our investment needs,” adds Mike Tenbusch, president of International Samaritan.

These scholarships have allowed young people to go from working in the dumps to becoming teachers and going to medical school. And the process of setting up the fund to support these scholarships was a meaningful process for International Samaritan’s leadership.

“Everyone we have worked with at the Foundation has been thoughtful and responsive to where we are and what we need, which is exactly who and what we try to be for people living and working in garbage dump communities. It’s been refreshing and encouraging to work with people who care so much about helping us to grow and get stronger,” Mike reflects.

Doña Maribel Gonzalez works in the La Joya dump in Nicaragua. She has two children and works extremely hard to support her family. International Samaritan is funding construction of a new home for the family.

He continues, “As a donor myself, I want to know that what I’m investing in is consistent with what I care most about. The Catholic Foundation helps us to ensure that the things we are investing in adhere to the same principles that our work is based on. That means a lot to us.”

Doña Maribel Gonzalez works in the La Joya dump in Nicaragua. She has two children and works extremely hard to support her family. International Samaritan is funding construction of a new home for the family.

In addition to providing thoughtful and personalized attention, and an opportunity to invest with a focus on integrity and values, Mike believes that endowments like the one they just opened provide needed financial stability.

“An endowment is the vehicle to move a nonprofit into financial stability. It takes away the stress of raising 100% of expenses each year and gives the organization space to focus instead on how it can be most effective,” he reflects.

International Samaritan offers many opportunities to support their work and engage in hands-on, transformative ways. “Concern for the poor is central to our faith and material poverty should be a concern of every Catholic. It is important to make sure that while we address the material needs of the poor we don’t do any spiritual damage. When looking for opportunities to serve the poor, we strive to find missions that serve the body, mind, and spirit in accordance with Catholic teaching and tradition,” Dan Weingartz shares, reflecting on his own motivation for serving with International Samaritan as a board member.

“If you are troubled by the fact that one out of ten people in the world live on less than $2 per day and want to do something meaningful to help, International Samaritan may be a great resource for you,” encourages Mike. “In addition to funding our endowment with the Catholic Foundation, there are young people in need of sponsorship for their education, and we are also building homes, funding water solutions, and creating “family life centers” in the communities where we work. We have six medical mission trips planned for 2020 and are looking for volunteers. We also work with 20 Catholic schools across the country that will go on week-long service immersion trips with us next year, and we would like to expand to more Catholic schools and churches.”

To learn more about getting involved visit International Samaritan’s website at

Support International Samaritan’s Endowment Fund

International Samaritan’s headquarters in Ann Arbor.