Probably the most influential story in Carrie’s lecture was about her MIRT research she did in Durban, South Africa and how they came up with a solution to lessen the school’s youth violence. She told us about how they completely failed to realize that the school is across the street from a liquor store and that it isn’t a safe environment for the kids past dark so her solutions weren’t applicable. This anecdote was a powerful reminder that although people may want to go do international work for global health and do their best to help, they may not know enough about the culture or environment to truly be helpful and all their work will just benefit them. This raises the importance of taking time to really get to know the people you are serving. It is important to be culturally aware and competent as well as to take reciprocity into account.
Last summer, I went on a mission trip to Bolivia and spent time with orphans in Santa Cruz. We had gone to help create and open a new orphanage near Santa Cruz, and some had gone to provide medical services. Upon the initial immersion into the country and primary interactions with the people, I came to realize just how unprepared some of us were for the trip. We surely were all competent enough for the main mission and the manual labor we had to do as we tried our best to limit the burden of our presence to them; however, I found that some of us still had a substantial language barrier. Carrie’s experiences she shared with us reminded me so much about how some of us had really wished we had gotten to know the language better before going to Bolivia. As she said, cultural sensitivity, competence, confidentiality, collaboration, and personal image should be part of the basis of global health work.
Because of Carrie’s lecture and my own experience, I think it is very important to first get to know the people you are serving/researching and understand their cultural norms and environment they live in. One can make sure their work is culturally sensitive by learning the people’s language, reading up on their cultural norms, or even spending time with them and asking questions. By making the proper preparations for the research immersion, one can limit their burden on the people they are serving and maximize reciprocity.
What else in Carrie’s lecture spoke to you guys? How do you think the information she shared with us in the lecture can help you in your future as a medical professional whether you are planning to participate in global health work or not? And if you will participate in global health work, how can you maximize reciprocity?