In 1986, San Diego attorney and real estate broker Barry La Forgia, participated on a mission trip to Peru where he helped construct shelters for impoverished people living in the Amazon Jungle. He was so moved by the experience and the desperate needs in the world that he returned to San Diego, left his law and real estate practices, and in March of 1988 formed Southwest Medical Teams.
The concept of the newly formed organization was to link people in need with teams of volunteers who had the skills (both medical and non-medical) to meet those needs. By the end of 1988, Southwest Medical Teams had sent volunteer teams to Oaxaca, Mexico to build a healthcare clinic, to the island of Jamaica to provide emergency care for victims of Hurricane Gilbert, and to Armenia to treat thousands of peopleinjured by one of the largest earthquakes of the century.
In 1996 the name was changed to International Relief Teams to more adequately reflect the work of the organization. Throughout the years, International Relief Teams has responded to disasters and/or conducted programs in the United States, Central and South America, Eastern Europe, Asia, the South Pacific and Africa.
Photography by Jesse Sutton/Dan Brozo / VideoLand California