Canadian Students Mobilize For Global Health

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Students for Partners In Health Canada began in early 2012, when Katie Cundale established the inaugural Students for Partners In Health club at McGill University. Later adding the role of national Student Outreach Coordinator, Katie provided support and guidance to all the clubs, and served as an interface between Students for PIHC and the PIH Canada office. Having completed her undergraduate studies in biology and geography, she is now headed to London to do a Master of Public Health degree at Imperial College. This month, Katie passed the torch to Raksha Sule, Student Outreach Coordinator for 2014-15. Raksha is in in her final year of a medical sciences degree at Western University.

Below, we asked Katie to share her thoughts on starting a student movement for PIH Canada, and Raksha for her ideas on what comes next.

Promoting Values We Believe In
By Katie Cundale

I read Mountains Beyond Mountains just before starting at McGill University and was enthralled by Partners In Health. I knew that I wanted to go into healthcare, but learning about PIH and the way that they approached health equity guided my desire to work in global health and social justice.

After two years at McGill, I found a few other like-minded people and started a student group in support of PIH. Starting a group gave me a way to give back to PIH as a student – we could fundraise for their projects, hold events that let others know about the work they did and the way they did that work, and most importantly it allowed me to create a network of students that believed in PIH as strongly as I did.

When I was offered the chance to be the Student Outreach Coordinator for all student groups across Canada, it was the perfect position for me to be able to help others build groups like we had done at McGill. Working with other students to build the PIH Canada student movement was hard work, as beginning groups for an organization that is not well known is tough on the large university campuses that exist across Canada. But I was quickly amazed by the dedication and commitment student leaders showed to get their groups up and running. These students would volunteer their much coveted time to start a group that didn’t necessarily offer guaranteed rewards.

Our student groups don’t offer volunteer trips, we don’t go off to work for PIH … we simply exist to promote the mission and values of an organization that we fundamentally believe in. And that, I think, it what makes Students for PIHC so amazing – we work hard, on top of all the other commitments we have, to raise awareness for health equity and social justice as enacted through PIH’s projects in Haiti and Rwanda. Being the SOC allowed me to see groups start and grow across the entire nation, from New Brunswick to British Columbia.

While the distance between the universities hinders one-on-one interactions between the groups, we have definitely created a solid network to build from in the coming years. I am excited to see the progression of all groups as well as the growth and strengthening of the network as a whole. Knowing that there are other students out there working on the same goals, or going through the same successes and challenges, is a perfect resource for support and innovation.

Building a Strong and United Movement
By Raksha Sule

It is an honour and a great responsibility to take on the Student Outreach Coordinator position after Katie did such an outstanding job! She is off continuing to do greater things, and I hope moving forward we can grow what she planted.

In 2012 I went on a medical brigade in Honduras for a week, which although a great opportunity, upon reflection, made me question the sustainability outcome for the community. Our brigade did not account for long-term development, and we delegated tasks as opposed to collaborating with local members.

When I came across Partners In Health, I was inspired by their principles of working towards sustainability, supporting local empowerment and promoting the significance of cultural competence. Since then, I have seen PIH as the best model for students to learn about how to work towards eliminating the global health equity crisis and truly making a positive difference.

In the 2014-2015 school year, I hope that Students for Partners In Health will continue to educate, advocate, and fundraise in supporting the passionate “whatever it takes” mission of PIH. Each Canadian post-secondary school is unique in their student body and organization, and what they can accomplish with their respective chapters can be exceptional. While it is important to showcase these distinct events, it would be wonderful to see a collaborative effort on projects between chapters to ultimately build a strong and united student movement from coast to coast.

Additionally, while we work to inspire other students, faculty and community members to take part in the fight for global health equity, I hope that chapter leaders can encourage and inspire each other to strengthen their passion for the movement. With PIH Canada standing with us, with perseverance and creativity, I truly believe Students for Partners In Health can become one of the most successful student movements for social justice and global health equity. I am so excited to see how much we can accomplish together for the upcoming year!

Every person, no matter who they are or where they’re from, deserves the best health care we know how to offer.

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