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May 17, 2017

2017 Global Engagement Summit

On April 13, our Director of Communications, Balungile Belz, and Director of Partnerships – Africa, Brittany Zelch, hosted the ‘Sustaining Your Impact’ workshop at the 2017 Global Engagement Summit. The purpose of the annual Summit is to connect students who are passionate about social impact, and give them the platform to network with leaders in academia, international development, entrepreneurship, and the nonprofit sector.

It wasn’t a difficult decision for us to place the focus of the workshop on sustainable partnership considering GlobeMed’s approach to collaboration. Through our partnership model, our students work through their university/college chapters to drive change as global health advocates by better understanding the needs of their grassroots partners. It is with this appreciation for the contributions of young, driven students that we accepted the invitation to participate at the Global Engagement Summit.

Brittany Zelch (left) with GES Content Development Co-Chair, Amanda Stephens (right)

We connected with 12 students from almost ten different countries who shared a range of ideas that could positively impact their communities. One student’s plan is to create a mobile platform that mobilizes social actors on college campuses. Another student wants to promote a storytelling initiative in public spaces in Indonesia. A student from Uganda wants to help equip medical students in with basic sign language skills to improve health service delivery to the deaf. Out of what we perceived to be simple and short-lived interactions came an array of action-based stories from every corner of the world.

One story that resonated with us was that of Shafia Imtiaz. Shafia completed her two-year masters in public policy on a Fulbright scholarship at the University of Chicago. Originally from Pakistan, she moved back to her country and established a micro-loan project called Bonding for Freedom with her partner, Muhammad Rizwan, to help uplift members of their community.

Commercial banking and landlord systems has taken a deep hold within Sahiwal, Pakistan, with some lenders charging up to 100% interest on loans to a population predominantly made up of farm workers. “When they are not able to pay them off, they are pushed into slavery by the people they owe, therefore getting stuck in a cycle of poverty. Instead of interest, we expect our customers to raise cattle. They buy it as a calf through our financing, raise it – which does not need much training or a lot of resources – and sell it off at a higher price,” says Shafia.

In this way, Bonding for Freedom offers an alternative in a region where the problem of bonded labor has become prominent. It also aims to reintroduce the values of the Islamic financial system. emphasizing the principles of sharia that prohibit the charging interest or fees.

“People are poor so they take out loans for medical expenses, college tuition for a talented child, or dowry for a daughter’s marriage.” – Shafia Imtiaz

Shafia’s project shares the some of the values of social justice that our students practice through the globalhealthU, GROW Internships and other foundational programs. It is also through talking to Shafia after the Global Engagement Summit that we were reminded about the importance of collaborating with like-minded partners, peers, and community members, especially, to better understand the world we live in.

Participants work through the Asset Mapping exercise

During the Summit, Shafia learned how to refine her project pitch and made a lot of changes based on questions that forced her to think more deeply about the purpose of the project. Before attending, she says she was not very good at networking, but had to quickly overcome that fear in order to participate fully. Next, she will continue to refine her pitch and start maximizing the resources other Summit participants shared with her to gain funding.

The Global Engagement Summit has many threads that intertwine with GlobeMed’s work. GlobeMed’s mission is based on shifting power to voices within the community that are typically unheard. In order to sustain those partnerships, the projects that student chapters support have to have a focus on sustainability. The official Summit hashtag #GrowExpandStrengthen also reflected GlobeMed’s impact, which is rooted in long-term partnership, and is centered on trust and open communication without playing into power dynamics or adopting oppressive tactics.

Brittany Zelch (left) and Balungile Belz (right)

We feel so much gratitude to the Global Engagement Summit for this collaboration, and the opportunity to share at their 2017 event.

For more information, or to get in touch with Shafia, please email [email protected].

Photos: Kaleigh Post, Words: Balungile Belz

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