A Message from your 2014-2015 GlobeMed Co-Presidents!

Matt Zhou
Year: Junior
Hometown: Palatine, IL
Major: Anthropology
Fun Fact: I’ve broken my arm by falling out of my bed while I was asleep
Brittany’s Spirit Animal (chosen by Matt): Chipmunk
Previous GlobeMed Experience: GROW Coordinator, GHU Co-director

Brittany Zelch
Year: Junior
Hometown: Boca Raton, FL
Major: Biology, Global Health minor
Fun Fact: I can’t remember the last day I didn’t eat hummus
Matt’s Spirit Animal (chosen by Brittany): Sloth
Previous GlobeMed Experience: Co- director of Individual Giving

A message from Matt and Brittany:

We’re really excited to introduce ourselves as the incoming co-presidents for next year! We are looking forward to not only continuing to develop relationships within the chapter, but also to engage the Northwestern/Evanston community through new local partnerships and collaborations. We believe that a closer and more connected community is critical for the continued success and expansion of our chapter. The coming year will focus on building off of a solid foundation and implementing new structures that will help drive us towards our goals and strengthen the way in which we operate as a chapter. Giving chapter members more opportunities to act as agents of change, both on campus and with our partner in Uganda, will help us move towards our goals of generating a greater degree of community awareness and creating sustainable change with the Adonai Center. As co-presidents, we have a vision of GlobeMed at Northwestern becoming something really special over the next few years. This vision depends on the commitment of our chapter members, who understand that through sustainable, grassroots empowerment, we as students have our own unique power to affect change and improve health conditions throughout the world.


Considering our impact carefully so that good intentions don’t harm

Ivan Illich, author of “To Hell With Good Intentions,” in addition to being an Austrian philosopher, was also a Catholic priest and critic of modern western institutions.

By Gordon Younkin

Last week in my Introduction to International Public Health class we had a debate regarding the values and pitfalls of clinical tourism and international volunteerism. GlobeMed actually came up several times during the debate as an example of a beneficial international partnership. However, it is very important to take into account the other side of the argument and listen to people who would say we may be doing more harm than good.

In 1968, Ivan Illych, an Austrian philosopher, addressed the Conference on InterAmerican Student Projects expressing his opinion that essentially any form of international volunteerism is inherently paternalistic and will do more harm than good.His speech was titled “To Hell with Good Intentions” and the transcript can be found here. While it is important to remember that this speech is nearly 50 years old, many of his points are still relevant today.

Illych encourages international volunteers to forget about their good will and good intentions and to instead focus their attention on the possible effects they may have on the community they are trying to serve. He posits that when Americans travel abroad, they impose upon the locals the American cultural norms of democracy and consumerism. He states that international volunteers “are ultimately–consciously or unconsciously–‘salesmen’ for a delusive ballet in the ideas of democracy, equal opportunity and free enterprise among people who haven’t the possibility of profiting from these.” Illych goes on to suggest that middle-class Americans cannot truly understand or dialogue with underprivileged populations because they share no common experiences or common interests. Apart from these cultural differences, volunteers can cause damage to local communities through negligence and a lack of responsibility.

One example that comes to mind is cholera outbreak in Haiti that likely happened as a result of the influx of international volunteers after the 2010 earthquake. Many blame the U.N. for causing the outbreak and subsequently covering up and denying their involvement. A more detailed description of the outbreak can be found here. In addition, many international aid projects are unsustainable and quickly go into disrepair due to a lack of follow-up. This is especially common in the case of infrastructural improvements such as clean water delivery systems.

How does GlobeMed fit into this? I think it is fundamentally different than the kinds of clinical tourism and international partnerships these arguments are addressing. I see our primary role as a partner to Adonai. The leaders at Adonai, as locals who know and can relate to the community, have the vision. Our role is to help that vision become a reality by means of providing resources. Yes, we do send students to Uganda every summer, but this is simply a means of maintaining an intimate partnership and encouraging the flow of ideas. As long as we remember that we are in GlobeMed not to impose our cultural and social ideals on Adonai and the community they serve, but to better understand worldwide inequalities and brainstorm ways to make a real difference, we will hopefully do more good than harm in this world.


Let’s talk about periods: Learn about how the GROW Team is planning to tackle menstruation stigma in Namugoga

Periods interfere with the education of many girls in Uganda. In a study conducted in Uganda, 70% of girls reported that they are negatively affected by menstruation while in school. Girls express shame, fear of stigmatization by fellow pupils, distraction, and confusion due to menstruation. As a result, many girls prefer to stay home instead of going to school; the study conducted in Uganda found that a female pupil will miss 11% of her time in school due to menstrual periods.1 48-59% of girls interviewed in Ghana reported feeling ashamed during their cycle. Photo by Alissa Zhu/Medill

Periods interfere with the education of many girls in Uganda. In a study conducted in Uganda, 70% of girls reported that they are negatively affected by menstruation while in school. Girls express shame, fear of stigmatization by fellow pupils, distraction, and confusion due to menstruation. As a result, many girls prefer to stay home instead of going to school; the study conducted in Uganda found that a female pupil will miss 11% of her time in school due to menstrual periods.1 48-59% of girls interviewed in Ghana reported feeling ashamed during their cycle. Photo by Alissa Zhu/Medill

By Amanda Blazek

The GROW team is in the midst of preparing for our trip to Uganda this summer – which feels so far away now, yet will surely sneak up on us. From working on grant applications, to looking for plane tickets, to deciding on a program, we are getting excited and want everyone to be involved in the process with us!

A few months ago now, the GROW team – consisting of Neha, Rafa, Olivia, and myself – Skyped our GlobeMed coordinator in Uganda, Aloysious. Although we approached the Skype session with a few ideas in mind, we mainly asked Aloysious what he felt needed to be worked on in Uganda and in the Adonai Center, and how we could be of help. One of the first things he said was that many school-age girls stop going to school when they get their period every month. Now, we know this is a sensitive subject. But if you think it is sensitive in the US, you can’t imagine the stigma attached to a girl’s period in Uganda. I could inundate you with the many statistics and percentages we have found, but trust me when I say discussing menstruation as freely as I am here would never happen in Uganda. Many girls don’t go to school when they receive their period each month, either because they are embarrassed or because they don’t have proper ways to manage it. It has become a large issue in the community recently, both because girls are falling behind in school and because of increased hygiene concerns.

Therefore, we plan on implementing a two-part program. Firstly, we will conduct a survey of girls and schoolteachers about the general feelings surrounding menstruation, and common menstrual management methods. This will allow us to understand the depth of the issue, and aid us in deciding how to best address it. These surveys will probably be conducted in small focus groups.

Secondly, we will attempt to better the hygiene issues and stigmas surrounding menstruation there. To address the stigma, we hope talking about menstruation in small groups will help the women become more open about the subject. For the hygiene problem, we plan on partnering with an NGO in Kampala that can help us either make or distribute sanitary pads to women in the community. This would be a great improvement for these women, and hopefully make them more comfortable as well.

So…that’s the plan. It’s still in the works, and we are working out the kinks as we write grant proposals describing our plan and our goals. The process will continue into spring quarter as well, as we are all enrolled in a Global Health research methods class.

I hope that this has been beneficial in helping everyone really understand our plan of attack in Uganda this summer, and how we hope to help. Again, the GROW team wants everyone to be involved in what we are doing. So ask us any questions you have, and give us your insight!

Lots of GlobeMed/GROW love,

Amanda