GlobeMed grows through trip to Thailand
The GlobeMed club at Whitman is an organization headed by co-presidents junior Katherine Runkel and sophomore Arika Wieneke that raises awareness about global health issues through hosting educational events around campus. They also fundraise for their partner organization, Burmese Women’s Union (BWU) in Thailand.
Nationally, GlobeMed is a nonprofit organization made out of chapters set up similarly at over 50 universities. GlobeMed at Whitman was founded last year, and according to the Whitman website, “aims to instill Whitman students with a sense of personal investment and efficacy in the broad fight for global health equity.”
“Last year we raised $3,600 for BWU, which funded [a] three-day reproductive health training program in the refugee camps, 10 reproductive training/discussions among the migrant community and [provided] 40 women with birth control for one year as well as funds for a nursery for six months,” said Runkel in an e-mail.
Some of the club’s efforts go to fundraising and directly impacting BWU’s work in Thailand, but they also focus on bringing knowledge of global health issues to the Whitman community. Events put on by GlobeMed around campus included three different awareness campaigns in the last year.
“One [campaign] was for World AIDS day, one was a book club on ‘Half the Sky,’ and the other was a film screening of ‘Burma VJ,’” said Runkel.
Along with raising local awareness on campus and in the community, students involved in the club can participate in Grass Roots Onsite Work (GROW) trips.
“The purpose of going to visit BWU is to foster a stronger relationship with our partner and help them with some of their projects. The trips help increase transparency between us and our partner,” said Runkel. “GROW is an essential part of GlobeMed and ensures that our relationship remains a partnership that benefits both groups involved.”
Alumnae Katie Miller ’12 and Abbey McGrath ’12 along with junior Colleen Bell were the first Whitman students to participate in GlobeMed’s GROW trip to Thailand.
“There are particularly ridiculous adventures that stick out in my memory, like following our favorite taxi driver, nicknamed Apae (father), barefoot up a waterfall seeking a remote hilltop. But the trip was also colored by the emotional issues we were dealing with when learning about the health, social and educational problems in Burmese migrant and refugee communities,” said McGrath in an e-mail.
At BWU meetings, Miller, McGrath and Bell heard firsthand accounts from the women about fleeing burned villages, destitution and the brutality of the Burmese military to escape to the border.
“We listened to migrant women, who are enduring human rights abuses in factory and farm labor, explain to us that they wouldn’t know anything about reproductive health and birth control without the help of BWU,” said McGrath. “I’d say we experienced the whole spectrum of human emotion over the course of the trip. But I’ve come away with new friendships and feeling proud to be a continuing supporter of BWU and these women through GlobeMed.”
Wieneke expressed her interest in seeing the club’s GROW trips impact the club’s efforts around campus and sentiments around campus itself.
“Not everyone can go to Thailand and visit with the incredible women working at BWU, but everyone can hear about it, see pictures and videos of it and learn immensely from it,” said Wieneke. “We don’t want this to be just an experience that the club knows and hears about, but something that the entire campus and community can get involved in.”
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