“Don’t underestimate the power of your vision to change the world. Whether that world is your office, your community, an industry or a global movement, you need to have a core belief that what you contribute can fundamentally change the paradigm or way of thinking about problems.”- Leroy Hood
If there’s one frustrating debate to be had when discussing global health is “Will this issue ever actually be resolved?” Cross-cultural initiatives with good intentions don’t succeed in resolving the specific issue they intended to and sometimes cause collateral damage to the foreign communities they serve. Through my experience in global health I’ve come to learn that sustainable and effective change not only takes time and hard work but it is rooted in community-based leadership. I first became aware of this model through GlobeMed, a NGO founded by students in 2007. The GlobeMed network engages over 2,000 undergraduates at 58 university-based chapters throughout the United States. Each chapter is partnered one-to-one with a grassroots health organization in Africa, Asia, or the Americas. GlobeMeds partnership model understands that the members of their partner communities around the world best understand their communities’ needs and potential. By building one-to-one relationships between students and community-based organizations, GlobeMed fosters the dialogue, collaboration, and mutual learning we need to tackle today’s complex global health challenges. During my time as an intern for GlobeMed’s internship in Guatemala I had the pleasure of working with Escuela De La Calle(EDELAC). As a primary school underprivileged children, EDELAC works to not only teach children math, reading, science and writing but also helps reintegrate the children back into society. There was no romanticism behind the progress and eventual success of the students, it begins and ends with the faculty members dedicated to making their community better, one child at a time. In between, there’s native or foreign volunteers that help to catalyze efforts or fund projects designed by the director but the imagined story of a foreign party “saving” a community is merely an illusion.
The tribal village we visited in India’s Dandeli Forest was an amazing example of community leadership in action.
Working in global health does not necessarily mean you have to cross borders to make a change or learn because all global initiatives are relative in some way on the local level. The real question is “what are you doing to better the world where you are now?”