International Relief Teams alleviates the suffering caused by poverty and disaster -- from the forgotten corners of the world to right here at home.

IRT helps families survive and recover after a disaster by providing timely and effective assistance. IRT also provides a hopeful future for underserved communities through programs that improve their health and wellbeing.

During disasters, IRT deploys medical and reconstruction teams, provides supplies, and finances the restoration of infrastructure. IRT builds healthy communities through medical missions to low-income countries, including surgical and eyeglass teams; shipments of medicines to rural hospitals and clinics; and health, nutrition and education support for vulnerable populations.

Since 1988, IRT has deployed more than 7,500 volunteers and provided $574 million in food, medicines, relief supplies, and volunteers services  to families in need in 72 countries worldwide.

Our Values

In the midst of hardship and suffering, we start with one person at a time. 

We believe in:

  • Partnership - We are stronger, more effective and efficient when we partner with organizations that have a strong presence in the field.
  • Equity - We want to make the world a more equitable place, which is why we target our efforts at vulnerable and marginalized populations.
  • Efficiency - We maintain a lean, dynamic staff in San Diego. We mobilize skilled volunteers and leverage strategic partnerships with organizations in the field, with the goal of achieving the greatest impact for every donated dollar.

IRT’s History

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 people injured 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.

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