Beneficiary blog: GlobeMed— “The Power of Partnership”
25 Jun 2019
GlobeMed, a nonprofit founded by students in 2006, supports 56 partnerships between university chapters and grassroots organizations throughout the world. With the goal of strengthening the movement for global health equity, each chapter is paired with a community-based organization to develop a long-term relationship. Partners work in various domains related to community health, including food and nutrition, income generation, and youth empowerment. As grassroots organizations are supported to advance their community impact, a generation of young people is simultaneously equipped with the skills, experiences, and values needed to transform the world.
“You came in and said to us: ‘We’re asking you what you need.’ Do you know how fresh that was?” said Lisa de Santiago, addressing students during a GlobeMed at Loyola weekly chapter meeting. Lisa, director of the youth program at Centro Romero, frequently expressed how refreshing it was to partner with the GlobeMed at Loyola chapter. When a group of Loyola University students approached Lisa in 2017 with the proposition of establishing a long-term partnership centering on mutual listening and learning, she was taken by surprise. Up until that point, Lisa’s experience with partners involved writing grants and personally searching for donors. With GlobeMed, Centro Romero was invited into a model of partnership centered on long-lasting, empowering relationships in which Lisa’s voice as a community leader was heard, respected, and uplifted.
Before their partnership with Centro Romero began in 2017, GlobeMed at Loyola was partnered with a health clinic in Ecuador. However, their chapter was shut down by Loyola administration in 2016 due to restrictions on international travel. Rather than let the student organization they knew and loved disband, a group of student leaders spent the next year digging deep and searching for possibilities. After extensive deliberation and self-reflection, they decided that as global health equity is just as relevant locally as it is internationally, relaunching the student organization with a local partnership instead of an international partnership would allow them to continue to do they work they longed for while also adhering to university guidelines. It was then that Loyola began its now two-year strong partnership with the community organization Centro Romero.
For over 35 years, Centro has worked towards its mission of helping the primarily Latinx immigrant and refugee community on the northeast side of Chicago achieve self-sufficiency. The GlobeMed at Loyola team works specifically to support Centro’s BRAVE program which serves middle and high school students in an effort to combat typical stereotypes for Latinx youth, like violent engagement and delinquency, by building a supportive community, engaging the group in various after school activities, and believing in their full potential. Each week, a team of Loyola students makes the short walk to Centro to support the academic, social, and physical learning of the teens. Some days they involve the teens in healthy eating seminars, other days they lead interactive yoga sessions, but most days, they simply focus on building their relationships with the teens.
Sarah Alharsha, Loyola student and former co-president of the GlobeMed at Loyola chapter, explained that when their partnership with Centro launched, it took a lot of patience. When the students first began working with the teens, many participants questioned their intentions. “As first-generation Americans and as students of color, the kids are constantly faced with assumptions and prejudice,” said Sarah. “Society expects them to fail and in many cases, the odds are stacked against them.” In the beginning, Centro’s teens thought GlobeMed at Loyola was just another group of college students looking to get their community engagement hours completed. It wasn’t until a few months into the partnership that the teens began to realize that GlobeMed was in it for the long run.
Soon enough, steady relationships developed between Loyola students and the teens in the youth program. In the process of truly listening to the teens and meeting them where they were, GlobeMed at Loyola members began to see their mentees leaning into the support they offered. The relationships established also enabled chapter members to grasp the connection between the hands-on work they were doing and the conversations around social justice and global health they had during their weekly chapter meetings.
Over the past year, Sarah has often heard Lisa remind the teens in her program, “You give what you get.” In the Loyola chapter, members have experienced the truth of this statement through the transformative power of the relationships they’ve built. While the teens have benefitted from the steady mentorship of the Loyola students, the students have likewise been greatly impacted by the love, trust, and resilience of the teens. More than anything, GlobeMed at Loyola members appreciate the opportunity to walk alongside Lisa and the Centro Romero youth, learning from one another and working together to create lasting change.
As the fall semester approaches, GlobeMed at Loyola leaders have begun envisioning their third year of partnership. Due to the nature of the constantly shifting student body of universities, they are currently working towards an approach that is more sustainable, while continuing to center the importance of one-on-one relationships. Being the first GlobeMed chapter to solely focus on a local partnership has not come without its hardships, but all in all, their journey the past two years has served as an inspiration not only to the chapter’s current members, but to the GlobeMed network as a whole. GlobeMed at Loyola has reminded students, alumni, staff, and board members alike of the power that partnerships hold. Whether partnered locally or internationally, each of the 56 GlobeMed chapters have made one thing clear over the years: authentic, sustained relationships are the heart and soul of the GlobeMed movement for health equity.
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