GlobeMed: Partners for Positive Change

By Rei Ramos ‘15
University Communications

Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime. Rhett Partida ’15 believes that these words of wisdom work well to encapsulate GlobeMed’s intentions and goals of inspiring sustainable positive change for the residents of Iquitos, Peru.

Earlier this summer, Partida, along with a team of five other students, traveled to the Peruvian rainforest as part of GROW, an internship opportunity that focuses on involvement in Grassroots On-Site Work.  Through GROW, the university’s GlobeMed chapter is given the opportunity to create a relationship between a student team and a grassroots health partner.  The UR chapter works closely with Kallpa, a youth development organization that hopes to educate, engage, and empower youth in the urban community of Pampachica in Iquitos.  Together, they create goals to provide better health opportunities and foster long term sustainable solutions for underprivileged youth.

“The idea of partnership is rooted in our mission,” said Humma Sheikh ’15.  The rising senior, a neuroscience major, stressed the importance of GlobeMed’s interactive approach to creating better opportunities not only for but with Iquitos.  Through the GROW internship, students were able to travel to Iquitos to work collaboratively with Kallpa and local community members to instill positive change through education, research, and programming.

Over the academic year, GlobeMed stages fundraising events to procure monetary support for their partner organization.  Working under a Partnership Action Framework, the Rochester chapter teams with Kallpa in order to evaluate programs in place in the community, assess the potential for change, and set goals in accordance with their budgetary possibilities.  This year, the group was able to raise more than $11,000 to go towards a solutions budget.  From there, they have created initiatives with community leaders, integrating the community’s voice to serve local needs.

Partida, this year’s GROW coordinator, believes that listening is a key step in working towards finding routes towards change.  “GROW is about creating sustainable solutions. What we were there to do, first and foremost, was to listen and understand,” he said.  This communicative emphasis helped the chapter to identify some of the community’s greatest issues, including but not limited to education, sanitation, and a lack of accessible health care.

In line with the mission of Kallpa, the GROW team focused on creating better opportunities for local youth; this led to a strong emphasis on assessing the state of the education system.  This summer, the team was able to provide after school programs at an elementary school in the community of Pampachica.  For Partida, offering educational opportunities for youth is integral for instilling positive change and providing the tools for success.  “I grew up with the concept that the greatest gift you can give to someone is education. Knowledge is one thing that no one can take away from you,” explained Partida.  Kallpa and GlobeMed hope that these programs will curb delinquency and promote the pursuit of higher education among local youth.

Even with these new opportunities in place, education in Iquitos remains a messy picture.  Many factors deter youth from being able to pursue higher education.  Kallpa has tried to create preparatory programs for mentorship and tutoring but has seen them fail due to budgetary shortcomings.  Because of these difficulties, GROW has been conducting research to study the factors behind these barriers to education.  This has included diagnostic interviews of students and observation of classes and lesson plans.  They found that difficulties in travel, commitments to jobs and family, and a general lack of access to educational and monetary resources leave many Peruvian students bereft of the opportunity to pursue collegiate education.  Even with scholarship opportunities provided by the Peruvian government, such as Beca-18, many community youth had to turn down grants and preparatory programs in order to focus on supporting their families.

“These kids want to do more; they have dreams. They just don’t have the means,” admitted Partida, woefully.  With over half of the community’s adolescents unable to complete secondary education, GlobeMed hopes to use findings of their research to create more fruitful programs and solutions.

In order to foster and mobilize efforts for self-sustaining local action, GROW also held leadership training workshops and community events.  These workshops, focused on creating effective local leaders, were aimed at providing youth with the skills to manage neighborhoods, lead communities, and facilitate lasting change.  These workshops, provided in nine different neighborhoods, are geared towards embedding local leaders who can cater to the individualized needs of their communities.  With this, the workshops help to provide a lasting difference, equipping the community with agents of change even after the GROW team has left.

With GlobeMed’s large focus on the promotion and provision of global health, GROW also observed the community’s health issues.  Situated on the Rio Nanay, a tributary of the Amazon, much of Pampachica is prone to flooding, especially in the summer season, which brings pollution and trash into the streets.  This leaves the community with a very serious trash problem that threatens the health of its inhabitants.  Cleanup programs and efforts to raise awareness of the issue have since been implemented. The GROW team also found a lack of access to proper health care within the community.  In hopes of changing that, they helped to install a clinic that allowed a reproductive health specialist to meet with local youth in order to provide education and fulfill basic health care needs.

“This internship has been the most enriching, most difficult, most thought provoking, and heartbreaking experience,” said Sheikh.  “It’s crazy how much these kids can inspire you with their ability to keep hope and find solutions for themselves.”

Seeing that the community has increasingly become more comfortable looking to GlobeMed for support, she believes that genuine connection is what differentiates their efforts from the low-skill labor of other “voluntourism” efforts.  “Looking for solutions should be an interactive process. We operate completely and entirely on the strength of our partnership,” she said.

In his three years of experience with GlobeMed and GROW, Partida has seen the tangible differences that his efforts have made in Iquitos and admits that the experience, in turn, has changed him as well.  “Part of the GlobeMed model is to create this greater sense of consciousness. It makes you aware of things outside your university, community, and personal bubble.”

Hoping to one day enter the medical field, he believes that these experiences have equipped him with expanded perspective and greater empathy.  He strongly believes that GlobeMed’s emphasis on interactive partnership with Kallpa in Iquitos, as well as with the community of Pampachica, fosters true connection that can lead to lasting change. “They can call me a family member and a friend.”