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Views from the global south: exploring how student volunteers from the global north can achieve sustainable impact in global health

Author: Ouma, Brian DO; Dimaras, Helen
Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd. 2013-07-26
Edition/Format:   Downloadable article : English
Publication:BioMed Central Ltd.
Summary:
Abstract Background The body of research and practice regarding student volunteer abroad experiences largely focuses on ensuring the optimal learning experience for the student from the Global North, without equivalent attention to the benefits, if any, to the host institution in the Global South. In this debate article, we examine an often overlooked component of global student volunteer programs: the views of the  Read more...
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Genre/Form: Debate
Material Type: Internet resource
Document Type: Internet Resource, Article
All Authors / Contributors: Ouma, Brian DO; Dimaras, Helen
OCLC Number: 855505685
Language Note: English

Abstract:

Abstract Background The body of research and practice regarding student volunteer abroad experiences largely focuses on ensuring the optimal learning experience for the student from the Global North, without equivalent attention to the benefits, if any, to the host institution in the Global South. In this debate article, we examine an often overlooked component of global student volunteer programs: the views of the local partner on what makes for a mutually beneficial partnership between volunteers from the Global North and institutions in the Global South. Discussion To guide our discussion, we drew upon the experiences of a Kenyan NGO with a Canadian student volunteer in the summer of 2012, organized via a formalized partnership with a Canadian university. We found that the approach of the NGO to hosting the student mirrored the organizational behaviour theories of Margaret J. Wheatley, who emphasized a disorderly or ‘chaotic’ approach to acquiring impactful change, coupled with a focus on building solid human relationships. Rather than following a set of rigid goals or tasks, the student was encouraged to critically engage and participate in all aspects of the culture of the organization and country, to naturally discover an area where his priorities aligned with the needs of the NGO. Solid networks and interpersonal connections resulted in a process useful for the organization long after the student’s short-term placement ended. Summary Our discussion reveals key features of successful academic volunteer abroad placements: equal partnership in the design phase between organizations in the Global North and Global South; the absence of rigid structures or preplanned tasks during the student’s placement; participatory observation and critical engagement of the student volunteer; and a willingness of the partners to measure impact by the resultant process instead of tangible outcomes.

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