ghU Recap: Voluntourism

By Amy Lin

Last quarter, the ghU sessions delved into the topics of gender and sexuality. While the sessions were empowering and fun as a woman, it was easy to get swept up in the feminist movement and start saying things like “gender is a social construct” and “down with the patriarchy.” The ghUs addressed these topics, but went even further in discussing the surrounding social environment. We talked about the personal issues with acceptance and social norms, and then went on to shed a light on the larger implications of the inequalities, especially with regards to access to healthcare and other rights.

While ghU’s always create dialogue about these important issues, the discussion often feels like it ends when the meeting ends. With our new focus on advocacy, it’s exciting to understand the beginnings, principles, and history of activism; in addition, it’s inspiring to be able to see the potential influence and change that student activists can bring to campus, and even beyond campus. .

We started the quarter with the focus on voluntourism, a hot-button topic that was sure to generate discussion due to GlobeMed members’ interest in global health. With our foundation rooted in the partnership model and making sure that our partners don’t just “listen to the donors,” exploring advocacy in the health field provoked a lot of questions regarding the benefits and shortcomings of voluntourism. During the debate, a lot of the issues raised were with regards to the White Savior Complex, the inherent power dynamic, the lack of sustainable support, and the limited opportunities in-country growth and development.

While the intentions of service trips may come from a good place and the relief provided may have significant short-term impact, it’s comparable to putting a single band-aid on a festering, gaping wound. The band-aid isn’t going to be helping that much, but it’s better than completely ignoring the problem. The voluntourism programs do succeed in one area: raising awareness for the needs in certain areas. While volunteers and tourists are being sent to these areas, these programs need to ensure that their participants are responsibly and respectfully engaging in these communities.

As short-term relief is being provided, more discussions need to be had about how to create self-sustainable programs that can promote growth, development, and eventually independence from foreign aid. It’s naive to think that this can happen overnight or within a few years. Government, policies, and infrastructure all need to come in play; however, if all the innovative organizations and groups keep implementing responsible actions abroad, then their cumulative  efforts can equip people in the communities to create change from the bottom up.

With the upcoming ghUs, we are going to be shifting our focus to student activists and organizations on our very own campus. Learning from our peers, we can use the skills and lessons they’ve learned and implement them to advocate for not only GlobeMed related global health issues but also other important causes that need advocating.

Amy is a member of the ghU committee at Northwestern.

GlobeMed Summit 2013; Violence as a Disease

If you haven’t heard already, the National Office proudly announced that the keynote speaker for the annual 2013 GlobeMed Global Health Summit is Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian activist who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with two other women in 2011.  GlobeMed at Northwestern is extremely excited about this opportunity and we are looking forward to the summit in April.  More information here:

There was an interesting article featured on NPR today that we wanted to share; it discusses the role that epidemiology can play in combating violence by treating murder like a disease and a public health issue:

This directly links back to a fantastic speaker featured at last year’s GlobeMed Summit, Dr. Gary Slutkin, who is working locally in the Chicagoland area to combat violence with a similar, public health approach.  His organization, Cure Violence (formally known as CeaseFire) was founded in 1995 and in its first year working in the Chicago neighborhood of West Garfield managed to decrease shootings by 67%.  Slutkin’s organization was also featured and made famous by the 2011 documentary The Interrupters, which was co-produced by Northwestern professor Alex Kotlowitz.  More information can be found here:

In the spirit of giving, please consider donating to GlobeMed at Northwestern:

Food for Thought

Global Distribution of Death by Nutrition Deficiency

How does individual behavior affect the international realm?

In the past 50 years, the rapid growth of the fast food industry has stimulated the industrialization of food. As a result, a few big businesses have come to control the food industry: what is produced, how it is produced, who produces it, how it is distributed, to whom is it distributed, and, even, how is it regulated and by whom is it regulated. The grand-scale commercialization of food, especially meat, has given rise to a new type of agriculture–factory farming.

Overproduction of corn from a farm factory.

Factory farming is not only unsustainable, but also perpetuates inequity among nations with regards to food abundance. Consumers, as an aggregate entity, influence the supply and demand of such unhealthy, unsustainable foods. Through informed, conscious choices, consumers can change what businesses sell, who will change how farming works, who will decrease overproduction which could lead to further equilibrium among countries.

– Kalindi Shah