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GlobeMed collaborates with organization in Laos

Carolyn Hutrya | Tuesday, February 12, 2013

When junior Genevieve Gill-Wiehl first learned about the GlobeMed network in the spring of 2010, she knew it was something that would band together Notre Dame students interested in a movement toward global health equality.

After applying and being accepted as a chapter founder, she fostered a network of like-minded students who were officially recognized by SAO the spring of the following year. Fr. Bob Dowd, director of the Ford Family Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity, stepped in as faculty advisor, and the new program was launched. The new chapter became part of a student-run non-profit organization with 50 chapters at universities across the United States, according to junior Kate Spencer, a campaign coordinator with GlobeMed.

As part of the organization, each chapter partners with a community-based grassroots organization facing health disparities in Africa, Asia, North America, and South America, Spencer said.

“[Our] chapters build these partnerships through frequent communication and innovative fundraising initiatives for collaborative health projects that help our partner organizations achieve their missions,” she said.

Discussions on global health issues prevail in the classroom while internships are also arranged with partner organizations overseas.

Spencer said the group of approximately 30 active members at Notre Dame is both very consistent and involved. The club holds weekly meetings at 9 p.m. on Wednesdays and also attends retreats and organizes fundraisers.

“Recently, we had a retreat for club members and discussed a lot of campaign ideas to raise money for the Promotion for Education and Development Association [PEDA],” Spencer said.

Spencer said the GlobeMed organization paired the Notre Dame chapter with the Laos network and students were thrilled to be working with them. PEDA is a non-profit organization based in Vientiane, Laos.

“Working with PEDA would give [GlobeMed members] the opportunity to make a tangible difference in Laos, but also educate students at Notre Dame about a country halfway around the world with a rich culture and history,” she said.

Spencer noted that the excitement to participate in GlobeMed was mutual.

“This is an opportunity for us to collaborate with GlobeMed and its students to improve the health of the communities, to exchange experiences about our works, open our ear to listen to new ideas from young generation…” chairman assistant and project coordinator at PEDA Thipphavanh Thammachith said through GlobeMed’s Notre Dame chapter. “That we may apply new ideas to our work and on the community projects, as our work is to provide technical information and education to support the community potential in solving socio-economic, health issues and so forth.”

Since joining with the Laotian organization, Notre Dame has remained in constant contact with PEDA. Updates are frequently sent overseas on club activities, Spencer said, and in turn those working overseas reveal their day-to-day activities both in the office and in the field.  

“We are sending four students there for about three weeks this summer to intern for PEDA,” Spencer said. “They will be assisting with health prevention projects in the area and we are very excited to get the chance to meet PEDA employees in person and not just over Skype.”

Though this is an exciting opportunity to anticipate in the future, club members are focusing on a number of events taking place in the next few months as well.

Spencer said the club is hosting a baby-sitting night for faculty and staff for Valentine’s Day, and later this month it is joining with the Center for Social Concerns to hold a Soup and Substance event.

“Later in the spring, we are planning on having a donation yoga class, selling spring break bro-tanks, fundraising at the Holy Half and will be campaigning for the World Day of Social Justice on Feb. 18,” she said.

Other activities will include a basketball game called “Loose Change for Laos” where the proceeds will be sent to PEDA and a Five Guys fundraiser, which will take place Feb. 28.

“Through our chapter discussions, collaborations with PEDA and the support of all GlobeMed chapters, we are making progress in the fight for global health equality,” Spencer said.

Offering a unique and opening environment, GlobeMed provides many windows for involvement for all majors and those interested in global health. Spencer said the chapter is always looking for more members.

“We truly believe that health is a human right, and that we, as students, can be powerful agents of change,” Spencer said.