I really enjoyed hearing about Carrie’s domestic and international experiences. I was truly blown away by all of the work she has done and places she has seen throughout her life so far. You could tell that she really has her life together. Therefore, I was surprised when she was so honest about the mistakes she and her colleagues made while they were doing research in Durban, South Africa. What more could someone like Carrie, who had all of the right intentions, have done to prevent making mistakes while conducting global health work? Based on her lecture and my own experiences, I came up with a few points on how we can do global health work in the most respectful and ethical way.
- Be educated about the culture. In class, Carrie guided us through many ways to try to understand and learn more about a culture that is not our own: read their news, learn some of their language, be knowledgable about their religion, or even just use google to further educate yourself.
- Keep the perspective that your trip is not about you. Whether you are on a short-term service trip or conducting a year-long research project, the purpose of your trip is to impact your host community in a positive way. If at any point you feel that you are doing more harm than you are doing good, step back and re-evaluate.
- Be open to furthering your understanding of the world around you. Try to absorb everything about the community that you are in. While you are there, turn off your phone and forget about the stressors you have back home. Take advantage of the opportunity you have to understand more about a culture that is different from your own, and take what you learn home with you. If you encounter something that is culturally different than what you are used to, don’t act disgusted or surprised, because could be interpreted as disrespectful and can put a wall up between you and the community you are in.
- Accept that you are going to make mistakes (and admit to them when you do). In the beginning of class, Carrie mentioned that, even if you do all of your research, it is impossible to fully understand everything about a culture, unless it is your own culture. It is inevitable to make mistakes when you are working abroad. How you respond to your mistakes, however, makes all of the difference. When you make a mistake, make sure to recognize it, apologize, and educate others about what to do instead. Carrie did not have to tell us about her failed research project in Durban, but she thought it was important to humbly admit to it and share what she had learned with us so that we could use that knowledge during our own experiences.
My questions for you all: Did Carrie’s lecture provide you with any new perspectives about global health work? Do you plan on doing any work abroad? If so, how will you make sure that your work is culturally sensitive and necessary for the community you are in?