Mission & History

International Relief Teams (IRT) is a top-rated nonprofit humanitarian organization dedicated to alleviating human suffering worldwide and in the United States. IRT specializes in two complementary sets of activities: disaster response and building healthy communities.

During disasters, IRT deploys medical and reconstruction teams, provides supplies, and finances the restoration of infrastructure. IRT builds healthy communities through medical training programs; 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 provided $6.37 million in volunteer services and $342 million in medicines and supplies to families in need in 68 countries worldwide.

Our Values

In the midst of hardship and suffering, IRT starts with one person at a time; meets need with compassion and targeted assistance; and works with local organizations to maximize efficiency.

We believe in:

  • Partnership
    We believe we are stronger, more effective and efficient when we partner with organizations that have a strong presence in the field. IRT leverages these partnerships to ensure our support goes farther to help those in need.
  • Equity
    At IRT, 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

The story of IRT begins three decades ago when, in 1986, Barry La Forgia went to the Amazon jungle on a church mission trip to construct temporary lodging for indigenous people. The following year, another trip took him to one of the largest garbage dumps in Mexico City.  Barry was so moved by the enormous need and poverty he witnessed on these missions, that in 1988, he left his successful law and real estate practice to found Southwest Medical Teams, now called International Relief Teams.