global health, photography, Uganda 2012

Living positive(ly)

Overheard in the field: “I have the courage to stand boldly before all of you because I want you to know that I will not die of AIDS.” – Zainabu, an HIV-positive woman from one of the groups we met with

Photos below: Visiting GlobeMed at UCLA’s partner in Anaka, testing school aged kids (14 and up) for HIV, immunizing babies who were born at home for TB, feeling a baby and helping with an antenatal home visit, meeting with HIV-positive women’s groups/youth groups

The red line indicates a positive test result.

Kristina and Carlos

Lamara! this is at home

global health

I think we’re molting

For the GlobeMed Nation.

I think we are about to have a growth spurt.

This first occurred to me last November, when over 100 students from the Northeast GlobeMed network joined together at the first ever NYC HillTop to unpack the meaning of “partnership” as a philosophical framework, development model, and set of actions. Wonderful things sprouted out of numerous small group sessions, thoughtful panels, and late night conversations. Instead of sheer fearlessness, what organically emerged from these discussions was a genuine concern over how to uphold our fundamental values as we step out into a world that runs on systems of political power, wealth, and self-interest.

When you join GlobeMed, you enter a phenomenal community of people who continue to demonstrate that we can and will change the world for the better. Every time we convene as a network, we re-charge and inspire each other through stories of transformation and human connection. The power that we share and the love that we show for each other is the most beautiful, special thing I have ever felt. Many of us know this feeling, and strive to move our deep passion into action through our partnerships. This, however, is only the beginning. After the HillTop, I realized that we as an organization are growing up, casting off our feathers, and entering a new stage.

If we are going to realize the dreams that we are racing toward today, we must understand the complex difficulties that lay ahead. At my innermost core, I believe that the power of common humanity can triumph if we choose to take bold action. I also recognize, however, that few people would say the same. If this is the case, we should not be discouraged. Rather, we must think more critically about how to retain the true essence of our ideals with more flexibility. For example, today I would probably say today that there should be no threshold for injustice. But what if there is? In the entropic world that we live in, social inequalities will always persist. When we think about partnership and how to work together with other organizations, systems, and individuals, must we sacrifice in some areas to enable good in others? At what point do we compromise? Perhaps this is less a question of compromise, and more a matter of how to couple our core values with a humble, rooted sense of pragmatism to meet the demands of our vision for justice.

We often say that we “discern our role in the fight for global health equity.” For the first time, I now feel that I am beginning to dig much deeper into what that really means, not only for our organization but also in terms of how I am going to live my life. It is not just about the field that we study, or the career path we follow. It’s about what kind of person each of us chooses to become. Who do you want to be?

At the HillTop, I watched my peers express a thoughtful kind of uncertainty. There was doubt. This trace of realism, however, actually inspired me that much more, because it showed me that we are in this for the long run. As a movement, we are going to do whatever it takes to figure out the real steps we have to take to ensure global healthy equity. As we mature as individuals and as a community, we will have to take a reflective turn. Nevertheless, I do not think this means letting go of our optimism. A lot of people ask me why I am so optimistic. First, I’m in college. Second, my friends—not just those on the front lines, but also the ones who sing, dance, make art, build, create, and have no idea what they are doing with their life aka all of us—are the kindle beneath my fire.

Finally, I refuse to live in a world without hope. Who would want to live there? So please, find that thing that gives you hope, that gets you out of bed in the morning, and let it sweep you away.

In fifty years, I hope to say with confidence, “I am still an idealist.”