Grupos de Investigación

What Empowerment? What Development? What Capabilities? Rethinking Student Voluntourism, Realizing Global Health and Development, Reaffirming Health as a Human Right

  • Peter Lee (Brooklyn College, CUNY, Estados Unidos)
Global Brigades, a student-led nongovernmental organization servicing Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua and Ghana, allegedly empowers communities in developing communities through the implementation of sustainable initiatives to improve health, wellbeing, and the quality of life. For seven to twelve days, students are mobilized on various brigades that address endemic health, environment, and sanitation conditions within communities. At the conclusion of the brigades, students depart and rural communities which ordinarily do not have any other affordable means of leveraging care are left waiting for the next brigade. This dependency on medical brigades reflects the current dynamic of global health activity and development in the contemporary, increasingly transnational, globalized world: as a result of neoliberalism and the privatization of health services, those who are not market citizens cannot access necessities of survival and care. While student humanitarianism through Global Brigades has been able to remedy disparity through the provision of healthcare, such efforts, limited in success, are notably be shortlived as they undertake a biomedical approach to health and a paternalistic approach to development. Only through the capabilities approach, endeavors of systems strengthening as well as the comprehensive address of the greater underlying socioeconomic determinants of health such as poverty, can communities resist processes of globalization and neoliberalism to ultimately achieve health, a fundamental human right, as a lived reality.
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