GlobeMed promotes global health, social justice
When visiting the Philippines with her family, the stark differences between the rich and the poor left a strong impression on School of Arts and Sciences senior Alexa Juarez.
In the fall of 2011, when friend Rebecca Hong asked her to join an organization that addresses global health issues, Juarez instantly took the offer, recalling her experiences in her family’s home country.
The organization was GlobeMed — a student-run non-profit organization that fundraises for its grassroots partner, Cooperation for Social Services and Development, located in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, said Hong, the internal co-president.
CSSD works with marginalized communities, especially women entertainment workers, who are at high risk for contracting HIV. Hong, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said these women often do not receive treatment or help for their condition because of social stigmas.
The money GlobeMed raises benefits an HIV prevention program that will teach a group of female entertainment workers healthy sex practices and provide them with health care services, she said.
The organization originated at Northwestern University when students looked for involvement on-campus in global health, said Gabriela Slomicz, coordinator of the Grassroots On-site Work initiative. The other 50 campuses all over the country help a unique grassroots partner in Africa, South America, Southeast Asia and India.
Juarez, now GlobeMed’s co-director of community building, was offered the opportunity to visit Cambodia last summer through GlobeMed’s GROW internship, which sends three to five interns to the organization’s office in Cambodia to meet the community and observe how their grassroots partner operates.
Her greatest memory was meeting the entertainment workers and hearing their stories, especially after fundraising for them for over a year.
“I remember meeting this 15 or 16 year old girl and she was an entertainment worker,” she said. “It was crazy to think someone that was younger than me showing her body. She’s not receiving the treatment that she needs because of the work that she does.”
Hong also traveled to Cambodia last summer for the GROW internship.
“What really struck me most about Cambodia was the amount of people who were warm and welcoming there,” she said. “Many of them live in poverty but they’re very welcoming. Everyone at CSSD and the community members were so willing to learn from us and share ideas with us.”
Hong recalls a woman named Chana who worked at CSSD that impressed her.
“She was about 25 years old, and she was just really feisty and really opinionated and you could tell she really wanted to help the community,” she said. “Whenever we’d be walking around, she’d always talk to people see how they were doing and you could tell she was really engaged in the community.”
Slomicz, a School Of Environmental And Biological Sciences junior, said she will go to Cambodia with three other members of GlobeMed this summer for six weeks to continue the mission, setting up workshops in English and writing to teach skills and continue helping entertainment workers.
Hong said they hope building CSSD’s capacity as a non-profit organization this summer by finding more sources for funding and collecting stories from the women of Phnom Penh to share with the University and incorporate into their campaigns.
“We really learned from the mistakes from last summer,” she said. “Because we’ve been working with them for longer, we know what we want to learn more, so we know what questions to ask.”
GlobeMed hosts two types of events — one for fundraising their project and another for education and awareness to engage the community in issues surrounding global health and social justice, Hong said.
This year, the organization is planning a 5K race on April 28 called “Strip for Solidarity,” where students can donate clothes by taking off layers as they run, she said. GlobeMed will give the clothes to Salvation Army and the money from ticket sales will go toward their partner.
“We’ve been able to find people on campus who were really passionate about global health and social justice and really utilize their passion to be really productive and to be innovative with the campaigns we do and the way we engage Rutgers,” she said.
Hong said the organization succeeded at its mission so far and believes it will progress after she graduates.
In order to join GlobeMed on Campus, members must have an application filled in the beginning of the semester approved by the executive board, Juarez said. The organization currently has about 30 members who harbor a sense of community.
“We like to keep it small — quality over quantity — because most organizations have general members who come in and out so you never really know who they are,” she said. “I would come to other meetings ... I never feel like I knew who the board members were. I felt like I didn’t have a place.”
Members of University GlobeMed say they care about global health because they care about people, Slomicz said.
“This isn’t just about providing resources,” she said. “It’s also about creating global partnerships. It’s a model where everyone is learning. It’s a two-way street. It’s not just giving out resource. We’re learning a lot and hopefully helping our grassroots partner.”
Michelle Ciancimino contributed to this story.